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Check lists and memory joggers can be helpful.

Recently, I decided to fly as comfortably as possible on a long trip to San Francisco: jeans, sneakers, etc. I packed my “work” clothes in my bag. Upon landing, I realized—too late—that I had forgotten my dress shoes and belt.

I now own a new pair of dress shoes and a new belt that a nice lady working at a store on Union Square sold to me. Check lists and memory joggers can also save money.

What of the innovation management practitioner? Can a checklist or memory jogger save their program? In other words, what is their equivalent of the pediatrician’s APGAR score?

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Innovation Management

Taking a page from anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar’s infant-saving book, I suggest SCERL:

Sponsorship (executive buy-in)
Centrality (business focus)
Engagement (community contribution)
Resolution (outcomes)
Leadership (personal growth)

The innovation practitioner scores each factor a 2, 1, or 0. The higher the score the better (think bowling, not golf). The practitioner adds the factor scores for the SCERL score, which ranges from 10 and 0. Ten is the Holy Grail.

SCERL Factor 2 1 0
Sponsorship Committed/ multi-threaded executive support Fair weather/ single-threaded support No support
Centrality Alignment with business charter/ goals Hit-or-miss alignment, depending on the function, region, or business unit Complete misalignment
Engagement Authentic/ growing participation across the enterprise Participation in pockets/ limited growth Declining/ disengagement
Resolution Potential of ideas/ innovations vetted/ tested Limited testing Innovators left to their own devices
Leadership Growing commitment and ownership of the innovation process and outcomes Limited commitment and ownership/ individual heroics prove the exception to the rule Participants adopt a “wait and see” attitude/ no sense of commitment and ownership

Reality jibes well with the chestnut, “What gets measured gets managed.”

The Power of Simplicity

The challenge for many large organizations is not that they shy away from actively managing their innovation programs. Rather, they create overly elaborate dashboards and struggle to find the clear link between cause and effect: Are we healthy? How would we know?

Virginia Apgar observed the same consternation and confusion with the pediatricians attempting to assess infant health in a clear, uniform way. This observation caused her to create what became the APGAR score — effective, in part, because of its memorable simplicity.

The time has come for innovation management practitioners to adopt their own version of the APGAR score: a clear, simple means of assessing the health of innovation within a company.

Apgar’s mnemonic has saved countless lives. Perhaps SCERL will save a couple of innovation programs.

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