Measuring Innovation Program Success: 3 Lessons from Bechtel

By Jeremy Brown | Crowdsourcing
June 12, 2018

Measuring the success of an innovation program is a critical step in determining the impact it has on a company’s bottom line.

But how do you know if your innovation program is delivering value? How do you know if it’s an integral part of your company’s growth?

Earlier this year, we hosted a webinar featuring Bechtel’s Intraprenurial Manager, Ankoor Amin. It was moderated by Spigit’s VP of Innovation Strategy, Maggie Riad, who spends a lot of her time speaking with clients about measuring the success of their programs.

During the webinar, Amin gave listeners an inside look at Bechtel’s innovation program, including how they measure success.

The conversation he had with Riad was illuminating. It surfaced several lessons about measuring success, which we cover in this article.

Success is defined differently by every company

Let’s get this out of the way first.

Companies have different goals and strategies as it relates to their inque industries and businesses.

Success doesn’t always look the same.

What may work for one company may not work for another.

When it comes to defining what success looks like in your innovation program, it’s important to keep your company’s goals in mind. For example, is increasing employee engagement and involvement a top priority? Or maybe improving internal processes with an ultimate goal of boosting productivity across the enterprise?

Whatever your goals are, if your program isn’t delivering results that impact them it’s not adding much value to the bottom line.

Companies that we work with that have Innovation programs that have achieve both success and sustainability tend to have several things in common, including:

  • They get ideas from every role and department in their business
  • They launch frequent ideation challenges throughout a given year
  • They scale company-wide to increase employee participation leading to more ideas and collaboration
  • Success is clearly defined and aligns with company goals (more on this shortly)

The latter is a prerequisite.

Define clear, specific innovation program goals

It’s absolutely critical to define innovation program goals upfront and ensure they align with the strategy of your company.

This brings up an important point: innovation leaders and executive teams must be on the same page when it comes to the goals the company wants to accomplish.

Alignment will make it easier for an innovation leader to assess the impact their program is having on the business, and will enable them to launch challenges that connect back to company goals.

That’s the difference between getting groundbreaking ideas that move the needle and ideas that add little value to where the business wants to go.

Examples of clear, specific program goals are:

  • Reduce the cost of manufacturing widget A by 20%, which maps to a company goal of reducing overall costs
  • Decrease the average time it takes for customer support to respond to complaints or inquiries by one minute, which maps to a company goal of improving customer experience
  • Launch a series of ideation challenges focused on new product/service development, which maps to a company goal of increasing market share

While you do want to make room for stretch goals (goals that aren’t easily attainable and tend to drive exponential change once accomplished), having narrower goals upfront makes it easier to get quick, but valuable, wins and build momentum for your program.

One way to measure success: measure idea adoption

There are a variety of ways a company can measure the success of their innovation program.

Bechtel in particular, as mentioned on the webinar with Amin, focuses on measuring idea adoption.

In other words, the company looks at:

  • How many ideas from their program have been deployed in the field
  • What impact have the ideas had on employees and the work they do
  • Which ideas have been adopted by other parts of the business

From a prototyping, piloting, and measuring standpoint, Bechtel’s model is a solid way of determining which ideas you should implement long-term.

Ultimately, if ideas are being adopted across the business to solve problems and accomplish goals, your innovation program is on the right track of success.

Final thoughts

Determining how you’re going to measure the success of your innovation program should be the first thing you do before launching a program of this kind.

It’s easy to want to get right into ideating and collaborating with colleagues to dream up your company’s next great product. In fact, companies do forget to define success metrics and align on company goals at times. Not because they don’t believe it’s important, but because they’re eager to start driving value.

While excitement for an innovation program is a good thing, the most successful programs that we see are the ones who define how they’re going to measure success, align the program with company goals, and measure impact every step of the way.

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