TIP: How to measure idea management intangible returns

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Arthur D. Little’s 2013 ‘Innovation Excellence Survey’ found a correlation between capability in innovation measurement and success. Yet less than 20% of companies believe they have a good idea management measurement capability. If you run a search on the web, you find many different approaches and models to do it … however, you might be neglecting much of the real value of your initiative if you look only for tangible outcomes.

It is astonishing how, especially in the last decade, innovation efforts have delivered profound and often unexpected alternative results. These deliverables have been so significant that in some cases they have overshadowed the outcomes themselves. For example, the implementation of idea management systems often yields benefits far beyond the ideas they generate. This might include…

Engagement outcomes
The feeling of belonging is embodied in these collaborative initiatives because participants can voice their contributions to the future success of the company (e.g., ‘I feel that I am being heard and my voice matters’).

Strategy alignment outcomes
Idea management systems, when well structured, are a very powerful tool to communicate strategy and direction. By defining the right idea challenges, derived from company leadership’s strategic direction, you are embedding important messages in your organisation. For example, if entering a particular new market segment is a strategic goal, by making it an innovation challenge to generate ideas you are also communicating and embedding this objective throughout the organisation.

Talent spotting
There is always hidden talent within a company. Idea management systems create an equal opportunity democratic platform. You may find that there are people lower in the corporate hierarchy who consistently have the best ideas.

Higher execution levels
The fact that the ideas are born within the company leads to more effective and swift implementation (e.g., ‘If it’s my idea being implemented, I will go the extra mile to make it happen’).

All these outcomes are intangible or at least harder to measure in terms of economic value. Finding a way to measure them (e.g., comparing employee responses to statements such as, ‘I feel like an important part of the organisation’ or ‘I understand our company’s primary business goals’) assures that you don’t lose credit for the many intangible positive results delivered by your initiative.

Insight: ‘In the end, the best talent will migrate to those firms that have inspiring goals, along with process, culture, incentives and investment that seeks out exciting innovation-driven growth opportunities. Those firms that attract that talent into a superior innovation culture will win in the global marketplace.’ (‘Demystifying Innovation’, PWC, 2011).

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder / pcc@exago.com

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