Methods of Measuring Ideas for Innovation

Turning ideas into numbers and knowing the characteristics of the Ideal Idea (0.00iur) is like having a compass and knowing the safe harbor where the minimal risks of innovation converge. Mathematically identifying desired ideas by users, extracted from simplified mathematical formulas, is the Holy Grail that eliminates uncertainties and passionate discussions, which are unhelpful in choosing ideas.

Gottfried Leibniz (1646 – 1716) had a dream: To discover the calculus that could map every single idea into numbers, that would put an end to all academic and corporate bickering and could be swiftly resolved by dispassionate calculation. However, nobody, Leibniz included, has yet found that Holy Grail, explains Gerd Gigerenzer, Director at the Max Planck Institute.

Lord Kelvin also explains, “I say often that when we measure what we talked about and express it in numbers, we know something about it, but when we cannot express it in numbers, our knowledge is scarce and of unsatisfactory nature.”

Evaluation of ideas for innovation

To qualify ideas is necessary but insufficient and inefficient. Studies and research confirm that among 50% – 96% of qualified ideas by “managers” (to eliminate repetition: “manager (s)” means, where applicable: innovators, entrepreneurs, directors of innovation, investors – angels, inventors, policy-makers and all professionals who deal with ideas for innovation), as wonderful, excellent, good, etc… leads  to losses of all kinds including billions of dollars, motivation, trust, etc. which are attributed to “risk and uncertainty” characteristics of innovation.

However, such characteristics are essentially due the methodology used. By changing the methodology, we minimize the uncertainty in the idea and, consequently, weaken the risk and uncertainty in the results of innovation.

Uncertainty and high risk aren’t inherent to innovation. Not at all! But the methodology based on gut instincts and subjective qualifications is high risk.

For example, if you buy an object of “your convenience” (risk 1) and “your taste” (risk 2) for your girlfriend, the result should be [(high risk) 2]. Even a gift becomes “high risk and uncertain” with the methodology that focuses on subjective preferences and one’s own gut instincts. Only “by chance or by luck” your girlfriend will like the present.

Conversely, if we look for a gift from the convenience and taste the girlfriend (the user’s benefit), the risks and uncertainties practically disappear. It is not that the risk does not exist, after all, even going to the bakery around the corner there is a risk, say Peter Drucker. However, the permissible risk in innovation cannot be high.

If we change the methodology of the idea, the risk (of innovation) can be very low.

To reduce the risks and uncertainties we created five ways to mathematically calculate ideas from the user’s point of view, which are taught in MBA’s in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Important and enlightening notes

  1. It is commonplace to hear that it is “impossible” to measure ideas, but we measure all ideas proposed to us, instinctively. This theory brings to light the spontaneous process that users practice naturally.
  2. To quantify an idea means to “calculate through mathematical formulation the numeric value of the idea with their respective unit of measure” that is being classified to be transformed into innovation.
  3. IUR®© is a unit of measurement that quantifies each idea, which should be calculated mathematically.
  4. We treat innovations as derived from ideas, that is, there is no innovation without the corresponding idea. If creative people did not ideate, nobody would buy, sell, teach, study, discuss …  No one would do anything! Confucius explained this principle 2,500 years ago, reaffirmed at the 2009 – European Year of Innovation.
  5. We Need to Measure, Not Count. – Peter F. Drucker

    Avoid confusing “measurement of an idea” with “enumeration of ideas” obtained in Brainstorming, Open Innovation, Co-creation or any method of abundant production of ideas, nor with rates of Returns of Innovation – ROI.
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  6. The idea is to be assessed qualitatively and quantitatively. The set of two properties minimizes the uncertainty of particulate ideas for innovation, if and only if it is carried out from the user’s point of view, the one who always decides which innovation to use to perform their actions and achieve your goals.
  7. The viewpoint of ideas “coming from the user for products and services” initially considers the three inseparable elements (physical / mathematical) put forward by the user to accomplish the task:
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    • Consumption of their personal energy (kcal) – Efforts of energy;
    • Consumption of their personal time (hours, minutes, seconds) – Efforts of time;
    • Consumption of their personal movements / displacements (km, meters, centimeters) – Efforts of motion.

    With these three physical elements, we can calculate mathematically any idea from the point of view of the user through the consumption of efforts, required by the idea.

  8. The name of the theory is S.I.T.© ®– Self-Compared Ideas Theory© ® since each user does a self-comparison using the old idea (transformed into innovation in the past) and the new idea (still being devised / conceived or in the brainstorming room). After the self-comparison, the user chooses instinctively the idea (new or old) that requires the smallest physical effort (kcal), time (min) and motions (cm).
  9. Quantification of Ideas can only be made as they are presented, although we can predict the way for the future of the idea (Ideal Idea = 0.00 iur ® ©).
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    Example: in the beginning, the post office was a great failure because the receiver should pay the letter that, by not knowing the contents, had no interest in paying it. The idea failed. However, when the issuer had to pay shipping, as happens today, the success came. The quantification of efforts of “user (receiver, recipient)” of the letter was zero (0.00 iur) and he went on to open it, and take note of the content.
    -
    Thus, a simple loop or inversion of business model can change the whole outcome of the idea.
  10. We developed five methods of measuring ideas. A summary of the first method is presented here, in which the mathematical formulations are presented for calculation of the ideas, and is displayed the arrow named by “universal sense of direction of ideas for innovation – unique and millennial” that guide us to a safe haven of ideas to innovation.
  11. The methodologies facilitate—mathematically—decisions on ideas to be used for innovation. Managers are freed from the dependence on subjective methods, which has led us to high risks, heavy losses and uncertainties that can be avoided. These practices are supported in various principles, among which: Energy Conservation, Least Action (Maupertuis), the Principle of Economy of Efforts©®, Occam’s Razor – Simple as well as ancient concepts and practices are included in our DNA.

First method of measurement of ideas to innovation

Knowing what to measure and how to measure makes the world less complicated   – Freakonomics

The first method presents the fundamental concepts of the S.I.T.© ®– Self-Compared Ideas Theory.©® that allows the numerical calculation (quantitative) of each idea accompanied by their unit of measurement – IUR©®, created for this purpose in combination with the mathematical formulation. The method also identifies and clarifies the existence of a “Universal Sense of Direction of Ideas for Innovation©® which, since always, leads ideas to those desired by the user.

To quantify ideas in the first method we use five steps.

1.  Definition of the reference point for the idea

To calculate ideas is essential to consider a standard to be used as reference for all the mathematical calculations of all the ideas of each product / service or whatever. The point considered is naturally the human being, the user’s body. After all, it is the user who really utilizes the idea transformed into innovation, material or immaterial. Thus, it is in relation to the “human body – user – the focus, the reference” – that the ideas are quantified.

Man is the measure of all things – Protagoras of Abdera, axiom, 480 BC

For Foucault, the human body is the last possible reduction. We could add the Frederick Taylor studies in Scientific Administration, which take into account the human body in the production of goods, typically treated in the course of O & M.

Conclusion: The first condition to quantify ideas is referring them to the human body of the user.

2. Popular method of quantitative evaluation of ideas, references of users, and their preference

Since the beginning of time, the decision to utilize objects belongs to the user, who chooses products and services that are more comfortable, faster, more practical and /or easier to utilize. Consider that it was the user, him or herself who built their own objects and did so to be more economically advantageous to himself. From the cave dweller to the industrial revolution, everyone made ​​his own bow, arrow, shelter, fire…

This is an atavistic concept which remains in the human soul. So we can say that it has always been that way. Nowadays, when the user evaluates an object, he instinctively quantifies if it is more economical to do the job, as if he had produced such object.

The user’s perception is sharpened on the aspect of economy of effort, until the point of “a single additional effort as equivalent to three other efforts,” according to Kahneman and Tversky, presented in Gourville.

During the last 10 years, students of MBA’s have brought objects and services that, although they seem to be more economical, in fact, they are not, and they end up stored in the cabinets as good as new, unused and forgotten forever. Examples: electric yoghurt maker, no smoke grill, steam cleaning equipment, battery toothbrush, etc.

In popular language we fail to use such objects because they are not more economical (more convenient, faster, practical and /or easier), even though they seem to be…

Thus, we have two reference points.

  • The first is the human body’s user, itself.
  • The second is the level of effort that the product / service we already know (old idea) requests us to achieve the desired results and is used for comparison to new products / services (new idea).

The reference points are decisive to the understanding of this methodology.

3. Equivalence between the methods practiced by users and the physical – mathematical methods presented by the theory S.I.T.© ®

The products and services that are more economical to utilize, we named “customized” which means “proper for this user (tall /short, fat/thin, young/old, male/female, strong/ weak, etc.) .”

These characteristics can also be understood as “economizer of efforts” of this user.

In the meantime, we can transform the typical expressions (subjective) in physical – mathematical language (objective).

 Figure 2

Important Notes – Figure number 2:

  1. There are, at least, two ways to prove these relationships: through physical and through daily examples such as download files, Smartphone and others where we can find the three elements together (energy, time, motion).
  2. With this change, we can find the mathematical formulation using the physical representation that can be proved through geometrical methods.

Mathematical Formulation for Measuring Ideas

Mathematically, and simplifying this article, all of this is reduced to:

Figure 3

4. Definition of Ideal Idea = 0.00 iur

The red arrow indicating the direction of ideas is equivalent to a simplification of the mathematical formulation, as Occam’s razor applied to the formula, i.e., simplified you can guide yourself by arrow. That is, the mathematical formulation can be reduced to the arrow indicating the “Universal Sense of Direction for Producing Ideas Destined for Innovation ® ©, Unique and Millennial“.

Users prefer ideas 0.00iur because, as Spinoza said, “it is the first and only foundation of virtue”

By definition, the Idea is Ideal if the value of efforts for the user is 0.00iur, i.e., they are ideas that deliver the benefits without the user consume any kind of effort, however small it is. The concept of the Ideal Idea = 0.00 iur is extracted from the mathematical formulation. The creative process should to look for ideas in the direction of Ideal Idea (0.00iur) to reduce risks and avoid losses. The point 0.00iur acts as a “safe haven”, an attractor element where to ideas, desired by the user, converge.

Figure 4

In the table above, the Sealed Battery and Frost Free Refrigerator are in Universal Sense of Direction of Ideal Idea = 0.00iur, while the Segway Scooter is in the opposite direction (>>> 1.00 iur) and so, was rejected by the user.

Less is more, but nothing is everything!

Products and services that require less effort are more valued, but those that do not require any effort from the user is everything!

5. Innovation manager’s dilemma – solved!

It’s not enough to be a good idea, brilliant, wonderful and similar adjectives. These ideas are excellent for feeding the boilers from hell, whose stock keeps growing, abundantly.

Traditionally, the dilemma of the “manager” arises in the moment of choice among several ideas well qualified subjectively and selected from the viewpoint of facilities for the corporation. How to choose among ideas useful, brilliant, excellent, fantastic, etc..?

This is the moment that the uncertainty manifests itself to the “manager” with great intensity and extreme acuteness. In traditional methods, is the moment that the “manager” takes a high risk!

It is also at this time that the creative environment is infected by the preferences and disputes among authors of ideas. Only a mathematical method solves these passions and fights, as the philosopher Leibniz wanted. The method gains maximum importance for bringing “certainty” of the choice of idea for innovation, so “quantified” mathematically. End of risk and uncertainty, at least in regard to ideas.

Thus, the methodology solves the dilemma of the manager mathematically selecting the idea with the greatest potential for user acceptance—the one who decides based on the economy of their efforts, which he or she will use to get the desired results.

End of the First Method – Basic Concepts 

The basic concepts presented in the first method are kept in all methods, namely:

  1. The ideas necessarily must be created and referred to the user’s body.
  2. The measurement is performed by the user, through self comparison, between the well-known old idea and the new idea, in project.
  3. The mathematical formulation is based on personal efforts (energy, time and motion) used to calculate the number, in iur, of the idea.
  4. Ideas must follow the “Universal Sense of Direction of Ideas for Innovation ® ©, which are headed to 0.00 iur – the safe haven of ideas, expected by users.
  5. The Idea is Ideal (= 0.00 iur) if it delivers the benefits without requiring any effort from the user.

The other four methods

Three methods are based on shared features. Price and human values ​​are used as “litmus test” of the idea, tested from the viewpoint of the user. The fourth is the “Balance of Innovation,” the first instrument that has three dishes used to evaluate ideas comparing efforts, prices and human values.

By Rui Santo

About the author


Rui Santo is a Researcher, professor at MBA – PECE – USP, Consultant in Creativity to Innovation, Creator of 10 tools on creativity and first instrument to measure ideas, Innovation Scales©®”, Elected by ESPM Magazine (2006) Top – Ten innovators. Developed the S.I.T. ©® - Self-Compared Ideas Theory©®, Five Ways to Measure Ideas, Ideal Idea = 0.00iur and Litmus Test Ideas. MA at ECA/USP – Communication; Electrical Engineer worked 4 years in Switzerland.

Image: maths and science formula with light bulb from Shutterstock.com

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