Do Processes and Metrics Kill Innovation?

22 Feb 2017 Sandeep Mehta


Many of the organizations we have visited often have the discussion about innovation vs. structure. The thought is that if we enforce processes and metrics on innovation, we will cripple it. The post Does Structure Kill Creativity? – K.L.Wightman lays out some interesting thoughts:

There are 26 letters in the alphabet and 12 notes in a musical scale, yet there are infinite ways to create a story and a song. Writing is like a science experiment: structure is the control, creativity is the variable.

As we have discussed many times in necessity is the mother of innovation, innovation requires problems and challenges. Providing open schedules and unlimited budgets will probably not drive innovation. Nor will the innovators feel rewarded, as there will be no one asking for them to produce results. If and when there are budget challenges, open-ended projects with no objectives will be first on the chopping block…

On the other hand, calculating NPV or requiring a business case for an exploratory innovation project will scuttle any exploration. What is needed is a flexible set of processes that enforce some discipline and metrics on innovation projects, but not as many as late stage development efforts that require significant investment. Flexible reviews and checklists can further enhance a culture of structured innovation. Effective dashboards and metrics can ensure that focus remains on nurturing and maturing innovations.

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