Measuring innovation in organisations is a tricky business. What inputs drive the innovation process? What outputs and outcomes result from it? What parameters connect the inputs to the outputs in a meaningful way?
Add to this the different types of organisation doing the innovating – not-for-profits like charities; local and national government departments; for-profit manufacturers and service organisations – each with different goals and objectives, and we get a sense of the complexity of innovation.
“Innovation is no longer modelled as a one-size-fits-all process..”
Then, on top of all this is the fact that innovation is “paradoxical” – in simple terms, what’s good for innovation at one point in the process may be bad for innovation in another. How are organisations to make sense of all these complexities, and how can they optimise their innovation system, if “innovation” is such an elusive and ever-changing thing?
There are many ways to measure innovation, some more comprehensive and holistic, and others that focus on one small piece of the puzzle. Many, however, do not address the paradoxical nature of innovation, and many do not look closely at the people in the organisation who are doing the innovating.
This means that it can be difficult to:
- a. know if your organisation is doing well, or doing poorly, in terms of its capacity to innovate, and;
- b. know what to do with the people and the culture, if the capacity to innovate is identified as weak.
Our research into this problem – set out in our new book The Psychology of Innovation in Organisations – has adopted a novel “psychological” approach to this challenge, drawing on the extensive body of knowledge of creativity (the key driver of innovation). The result is the development of an “Innovation Phase Assessment Instrument” (IPAI) that achieves two things.
First, it models innovation across a series of seven phases.
Second, it recognizes that aspects of the Person, the cognitive Processes, the Product, and the organisational climate (the so-called Press) differ in each phase. Divergent thinking (idea generation), for example, may be most favourable to innovation in one phase, but Convergent thinking (analysis) may be most favourable in another.
To maximize its capacity for innovation, therefore, an organisation must align itself to the “favourable” conditions in each phase. The IPAI tells an organisation where it is currently well-aligned, and where it is currently poorly aligned. This then makes it possible to take targeted actions to address weaknesses and build strengths.
Innovation is no longer modelled as a one-size-fits-all process, and the IPAI allows organisations and managers to develop a highly differentiated understanding of their capacity for innovation.