How To Stop Chasing Innovation Fads + Start Measuring Up

Not what I look like.

In 2014, I wanted to get in shape.

So I did what anyone would do. I found the latest exercise fad — and thew myself into it.

At the time — it was Insanity. A video-based extreme body-weight cardio mesh that promised to get you shredded in sixty days.

Led by the always-on Shaun T, I began hurling my body around my shed-turned-gym — sprinting on the spot, doing push-up variations, mountain climbers — the lot.

On day 45, I collapsed into a pile of my own blood, sweat and vomit — literally. I was exhausted — I was not seeing the mega-gains. I abandoned the program.

Insanity was fun and it pushed me into a new direction. But there was no customisation — I just followed the DVD. It didn’t matter if I was a fitness fiend, a couch-potato, or a strong-but-fat guy — we were all in the same boat.

Similarly, there was limited measurement involved. We did a fitness test at the beginning and midway through — but this did nothing to inform what exercises we would do.

Insanity was an attempt at a one-size fits all exercise program. It worked for some, but it failed for me.

Then, in 2016, I wanted to get in shape.

Encouraged — and gifted — by my friends, I headed along to our local gym. I felt overwhelmed — there were so many machines, weights and people.

But at my first visit, I was met by Sam. He was a trainer, and spent thirty minutes asking me about my fitness experience, my goals, my weaknesses and my injuries. He took me around to assess my abilities.

Sam worked out that I was already pretty fit. But he also quickly identified that I had the upper-body strength of a pool noodle.

So Sam designed a program that would work on my upper-body. I was taught to use free-weights, how many reps to do, and when to increase the resistance. I was taught how to take breaks, what to eat. I was given new challenges to attack.

Within 45 days — I felt like a new person. I could do things I hadn’t done before, and was getting measurably stronger each day.

This approach was targeted. It was measurable. It was individualised.

Measurement is fantastic. We utilise it in so many areas of lives — from understanding how our business works (through accounting measures) to understanding the performance of individual crickets (through averages, strike rates, and economy figures).

So why do so few organisations have solid, individual measures for their innovation?

Many of the businesses I meet have no measures for their innovation — whatsoever. This is common — a 2010 McKinsey report highlighted that 70% of leaders say innovation is a top three priority — yet only 22% have any innovation measurements.

The ones that do measure the outcomes — not the process. As Forbes said a few years ago — this perspective is “woefully incomplete.”

Measuring the outcomes does not highlight how your innovation could improve. Measuring the outcomes does not provide you with data to change or inform an innovation project. Measuring the outcomes does not let you see the ‘intangibles’ of the process — or the deeper innovation culture that every business has.

And most businesses don’t do this — because they don’t know how.

One solution? Learn from the best.

IDEO are one of the world leaders in innovation and design. They’ve been in the game since 1991, having designed Apple’s first mouse, the Palm VDA, and working with Air New Zealand to develop the SkyCouch.

And they have recently developed a tool to help businesses measure and improve their innovation.

Called IDEO Creative Difference, this powerful tool surveys your employees and benchmarks their results against their 25 year data-set. It then delivers a deep data-set highlighting your business current abilities in Creative Performance, your strengths, improvement areas, innovation culture and businesses to learn from.

Additionally, your results are compared against the average for your industry — to see how you shape up, and where you need to improve.

I’ve been chatting with IDEO San Francisco over the past few weeks, and am pleased to be able to offer the Creative Difference tool to New Zealand and Australian companies — providing solid innovation measurements and helping coach innovation change.

If you’re interested to learn more — please get in touch at jeremy@creativate.co.nz