How do you measure innovation?


I’m writing this post for two reasons.

First, you may have received in the last day or two an email from me, asking you to participate in a survey about innovation @ SWIFT (if you are a SWIFT employee) or about Innotribe (if you are in the financial community). After this was sent I received calls and mails asking whether it was really from me and not spam – I can confirm it is really from me, and that indeed it’s only one question. And please, do help us by spending the 2 minutes required to fill it in. Much appreciated :-)

Second, to tell you about why we (the Innovation team @ SWIFT) are doing this. And it’s quite a big subject, one which you may contribute to shape in the future.

As the Head of Innovation @ SWIFT, I discuss quite often the following topics with the executives of my company and our community:

1. how do you measure the innovation rate of our company and/or the financial community ?

2.  how do you measure the impact of an innovation team? And let me make sure you understand this correctly – I recon the objective of an innovation team is not to innovate within the close limits of that team, but rather to foster and enable innovation in the company and the community. This certainly is the objective of the innovation team @ SWIFT (some of you will remember that I always start my speeches by saying that “My team does not wake up every morning with ideas. Many people do, and it’s the job of my team to spot these people and remove barriers they may face”).

Here’s the basic thought process we go through.

First step of the reasoning:  as the innovation team is the facilitator for innovative ideas, the key performance indicators (yes yes the KPI word ;-) ) of the team cannot be associated to the ultimate results of the products/services resulting from the original ideas (new revenues, new clients, new business models). In the end, it is the company and the community that has to bring these new products and services to the market, not the innovation team.

Everybody agrees so far.

The second step follows logically: if we cannot measure the  ultimate impact in terms of bottom line revenues, then we need to assess how the innovation team increases the capacity of the company and the community to -

1. create the internal and external networks of people who are influencers and shapers of the future directions for innovation,

2. generate new ideas,

3. formulate concretely and specifically the ideas,

4. assess the validity and commercial appeal of the ideas.

This gets much more concrete and we start discussing the tools that the innovation team brings to the table in these areas and the associated KPIs. In the innovation team @ SWIFT, these things are mapped to -

1. internal and external contacts we have outside of the “traditional” circuits,

2. Innotribe internal and external idea generation facilitated events (active prospecting)  and innotribe.com (passive prospecting),

3. Budgets and resources to shape ideas in terms of proof-of-concepts and prototypes,

4. Budgets ands resources to shape R&D or incubation projects to bring ideas to the point where their commercial viability can be tested with pilot clients.

At this point, everybody still agrees, albeit as you can imagine there is a healthy amount of discussions about the stretch targets of the KPI indicators. And actually some KPIs get agreed as stakes in the ground.

The third step of the thought process is when someone says: the KPIs are all good and fine, but are we really measuring the progress of the innovation culture in the company and the community? It’s a wake up call, because soon we realize that we are only scratching the surface.

The truth is not only in the numbers, it’s also in what people perceive at the end of the day. And we all know perception is the truth.

Thus, we come back to the survey with which I have started this blog post: the ultimate measure of my team’s success is finally what you – employee of a member bank, corporate, market infrastructure, partner, journalist, outsider, staff – think about our efforts.

So we are reaching out to you, to establish a baseline of where we stand in our efforts, and focus our future ones.

It’s a very deep, honest and, I’ll say it, humble approach. Please be deep and honest in your responses. And also, get your comment of any kind posted, the team is really looking for a discussion on all above!

Kosta (@copernicc)

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3 thoughts on “How do you measure innovation?

  1. Does innovation only happen when it affects the bottom line?
    I would think this would be far down on the list of KPI indicators. Increasing people’s ability to collaborate, exchange ideas, increase moral, and building an understanding between the internal and external communities has a more profound – positive effect. Being innovative in the work place should be about doing things smarter, that benefit the community. Hard stuff to fit into a KPI….but maybe if we increase retention rates of staff because they feel they make a difference, or if a better way of exchanging information or setting up customers is implemented due to the collaboration established by the Innotribe team then we can pop the cork of success. Maybe difficult to measure but matching staff to ideas and having them work those ideas, especially if passionate about the change, can lead to motivation, which can be contagious. I agree that perception is truth….can the increased collaboration established between customer and service provider (internal and external) be measured in the number of contacts and dialogs established. Innotribe should paint with a broad brush, one that connects people, people will do the rest. Set up a culture of acceptance of change and change can happen.

    • Thanks for the comment. I really like the way you say it: “Innotribe should paint with a broad brush, one that connects people, people will do the rest.”. I will quote you in an upcoming presentation!

  2. Pingback: “We care and want to be more involved” – results of the SWIFT staff survey on innovation « copernicc

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