Why measurement has its limits in transformative innovation

CEO of Emerge Inc.. It’s about the beauty of all things transformational. Earn money and meaning without compromise.

I remember the day my baby girl was born. She had cute little fingers that seemed to move in slow motion. My wife was exhausted but invigorated by what she had created. I was unable to think at all, but my mind kept racing as I tried to keep my composure for the sake of others around me.

But then I remembered how much hope and responsibility I carried. At that time, I became a father. This feeling stayed with me forever.

Think back to when you created the idea for a business or product. Do you remember how you felt and how the momentum of you and the team seemed unstoppable? Do you remember the late hours and drama of creating something you all believed in and what it ultimately felt like to challenge the status quo and find the truth in the noise?

It’s unfair to compare my daughter to a startup idea or the creation of a product, but there are similarities to consider. Organizations don’t behave like hospitals or doctors helping you bring your idea to life, whatever it is. They often have the limiting belief that only one type of birth with one type of idea is allowed.

In an uncomfortable sense, it seems corporations have unwittingly become the controllers of what can be born or live within their walls. Subtly but effectively, companies send messages to employees that certain measurable results are appreciated and certain premeasurable activities must be destroyed before they take on oxygen.

I’ve written two books on measurement, created a software company focused on measurement, and taught financial performance management at the JL Kellogg School of Management — even my best friends are measurement gurus. Yet, I realized that the “what gets measured gets done” approach is insufficient for the birth of transformative new ideas. Non-financial measures are needed in the early stages to understand the possible birth of transformative ideas yet to be seen. The blinding caused by measurement can be as serious as its transparency.

Imagine you meet a doctor who is responsible for helping you with your childbirth, and in the process the doctor asks about the return on investment of having a child and the business plan that will allow the amount of investment necessary to grow that child that will be unprofitable for some time during their lifetime. Imagine that the doctor says that you need an analysis of the potential risk of the child being a burden on the state.

If we decided all our dreams this way, we would have the makings of a science fiction movie, a movie that provokes a strong emotional reaction about the meaning of hope and the opportunity cost of life itself. same. Yet companies separate this reality from the false sanctity of predictive analytics, ignoring any intuition or instinct provided by those with experience and the ability to see through the walls of the future.

The current market stance during the inflation and crises we see is to only support predictable solutions that generate margins and are safe bets in today’s metric constructs. We discount all other possibilities for the future, almost as if we’ve forgotten that we’ve entered a pandemic in which everything we thought maybe two years ago has changed, and a new world order has arrived.

Most of us believe that measurement will get us to the other side of our fears, when perhaps the opposite is what is needed: our ability to create the future we want and to believe in our instinct forged from experience and our values.

Here are some suggestions to meet your measurement requirements.

1. First measure the activities and the results of the activities. Tell leaders that habits of innovation take patience to start. Measure the number of ideas generated and who provides them. Measure the pipeline and number of hackathon exits.

2. If ROI questions emerge too soon, provide your plan with alternative scenarios, and if stakeholders want a billion dollar idea, turn it down. Remind them that if you think an idea is that important, it’s already too late because others have the data just like you. If you are considering incremental innovations, then ROI is for you.

3. Include finance managers early in your design sessions, as they can be great partners if they see how the soup is made. And inside every financial and legal partner, there is an employer waiting to come out.

4. Remember that speaking the language of measurement is essential, but if you think the language is the only language, you cease to be effective. Transformative innovation uses a careful equation of financial and non-financial measures. Use them both.

Innovators must hook their ideas to belief and take stock of their knowledge and foresight while looking back. Most importantly, innovators must now challenge their own fears of not giving in to others who want them to give in to today’s problems and forget about tomorrow. Innovators must use their instincts and create the universe they want to exist in using the pure power of their own skills and actions.

Without this challenge and the belief that there is a better way, innovators will struggle to thrive. Measurement is very important to address growing business concerns, but measurement should be carefully assessed for budding ideas that have slow-moving, figurative little fingers. Measurement is about growth potential measured against other similar ideas, and these measurements should not “throw out the baby with the bathwater”.

If we don’t innovate, we could destroy ideas in their infancy, and then we would live in a limited world without creativity, which would be boring.


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