Fun and Games – Changing the World of Innovation Assessments

Innovation Assessment is one of the pillars of an innovation program. Evaluation should be done as an on-going activity and revised with the most valuable feedback gathered along the entire innovation journey. In the third of a series of articles focused on Innovation Culture, we are going to propose a different approach for Innovation Assessment that by offering a different user experience could increase awareness, engagement and elicit more valuable contributions from key stakeholders.

Engagement is a key success factor for Innovation Assessments

Carol came into the office as usual on a Monday morning. Sifting through the emails she spotted one with the heading “Innovation Assessment, to be completed by Friday next week”. Finally, she thought, someone is trying to figure out what we need to do to improve conditions for innovation in our organisation. Over the years we have been doing all sorts of things. She remembered the idea management system, the streamlined new product development process – or innovation process as it was now called; she also remembered the introduction of Innovation Champions and finally the announcement of an Innovation Director.

She felt that all of these had been important steps on the innovation journey, yet no one seems to have figured out what it was that her organisation was already doing well and right in the context of innovation, and where they still needed to improve! Excited, she clicked through to the survey – only to feel her heart sink; oh no, not another one of those! Endless questions, respond on a scale of 1 to 10, or whatever. How utterly uninspiring! All this talk about innovation, and then this… She already knew that at least half her colleagues would find a way to duck out of this one, or would switch to autopilot while answering the questions making the results less meaningful.

What if one was to take all the good and important things from current assessment tools and combine these with the possibilities of the 21st century!

Surely, there must be another way? Something that would energise and inspire everyone rather than frustrate and annoy the hell out of everyone… Something that would create insights and outputs that people want to – and could – take action on; something that would truly accelerate the innovation journey. She almost got excited again: what if one was to take all the good and important things from current assessment tools and combine these with the possibilities of the 21st century! Thinking about how technology and online gaming had developed since the turn of the millennium it should surely be possible to design something that people couldn’t wait to engage with!

A review of the most important Innovation Assessments

Innovation Assessment is one of the pillars of innovation. Previously starting organization wide innovation programs and practices, top management should invest some of their time to assess their capabilities and culture. It will acknowledge not only the weak points but also the areas and aspects of the organization that already support innovation.

Before proposing characteristics of innovation in the 21st century it is important to take stock of what is currently available in terms of Innovation Assessments, and distil what the most positive characteristics of leading current assessments are. This research was based on dozens of frameworks and tools, which were identified based on their visibility in articles, white papers and innovation management reports, on the Internet, referenced in social networks, discussion forums and webinars, or were listed in specialized directories and rankings.

Most tools are facilitated through online questionnaires, and the main goal of most of these diagnostics is to assess conditions for innovation in an organization and hence its capability to innovate, by measuring the organizational innovation readiness, maturity and performance and / or the quality of existing innovation management practices and any ongoing programs that aim at improving conditions for innovation. While individual tools and frameworks may use different terminology, most of them cover the following aspects: overall conditions / culture, people, processes and tools, with a number of questions which participants are asked to rank.

In all Innovation Assessments it is possible to find a series of metrics across all the dimensions and areas of the organization that are related with highly innovative companies, from strategy to technology, new product/service development and performance measurement. They all measure the key organizational capabilities required for successful innovation management (e.g. The Management Innovation Index ™, The Path for Growth: an Innovation Journey, Innovation Wave® and IMP³rove) that applies to all sectors/industries. Some are focused on specific sectors, such as the Malasia Innocert’s Innovation Assessment, which adapts the Korean Innobiz innovation evaluation system. But only the Innovation Wave® a few other allow for interaction with the questions and / or additional feedback by survey participants.

All frameworks produce a report with the survey’s outcomes, which represents a picture of an organization’s current conditions for innovation. It usually underlines where the organizations stands, the areas of concern and any gaps and barriers that need to be addressed in order to achieve their goals. This type of assessment could lead to:

The main goal of most of these diagnostics is to assess conditions for innovation in an organization and hence its capability to innovate.

  • a shared understanding of innovation purpose,
  • identification of the dimensions for a change management initiative;
  • more informed decisions taken by top management around its innovation road map.

Feedback reports are typically based on automated analysis and standardised answers and most of these frameworks provide a condensed report (e.g Arthur D. Little Innovation Management Health Check, The Path for Growth: an Innovation Journey, Innovation Wave® and Strategos Innovation Diagnostic); some of them also offer a more comprehensive organization innovation readiness assessment upon request or have briefing and de-briefing workshops as integral part of the assessment.

Generally they provide a comparison with a best possible performance or “ideal” situation based on the state of the art and industry best practices (e.g. Corporate Innovation Online, The Path for Growth: an Innovation Journey, InnovationWave® and Innovation Scoring by Cotec). Just a few are offering valuable benchmarks against the industry/sector average, best performers, or relative to peers (e.g. The Innovation Management Maturity Model ™, The Management Innovation Index ™ and IMP³rove and the Innovation Management Health Check). Some of these benchmarks also allow organizations to compare themselves with key competitors in a particular geographic range, sector or market (e.g. IMP³rove).

After completing this type of assessment, organizations should be capable of designing strategies and creating their own road maps for sustained and continual innovation, which can be measured for success over time. Senior Managers will gain deep insights into the workings of their organization as well as be able to set priorities for addressing key issues in areas impacting innovation.

However, the following shortcomings were identified in most of these assessments:

  • Lack of possibility to interact with questions / offer explanations
  • Do not provide sufficient information;
  • Their potential as learning tool is not consciously realised;
  • Are based on the assumption that there is one best practice, regardless of industry, size, or even innovation ambition;
  • They are linear and discrete;
  • Have complex scales;
  • Are neither inspiring, nor engaging.

A different approach for Innovation Assessment

The ambition is to take all the good and important aspects of existing assessment tools and combine these with the possibilities of the 21st century!

Currently, Innovation Assessment configurations depend on the number and type of assessment latitudes (e.g. resources and the result evaluation), the possibility of using an off-line or an on-line platform, as well as benchmark capability that allows comparing company/organisation results against the industry’s average and top performers.

However, users have become more demanding. Besides the current features, they want to have easy, less time consuming and more fun tools to navigate and create their road map for innovation. At the same time there is increasing acceptance that innovation needs a systemic approach if it is to be truly embedded in an organization, and an acknowledgement that there cannot be ‘one fits all’ solution. This means that there can be no simplistic, single dimensions approach to identifying the levers for improving conditions for innovation.

Since these current assessments do not provide a clear and strong focus on a unique user experience, Innovation Assessments worthy of the 21st century should have the following characteristics:

They want to have easy, less time consuming and more fun tools to navigate and create their road map for innovation.

  • Be fun and engaging
  • Easy to gather the data
  • Less time consuming for the respondent
  • Facilitate sharing and collaboration
  • Combine one and off line activities
  • Stimulate on-going evaluations
  • Reflect conditions for innovation in real time
  • Give immediate feedback
  • Allow monitoring and tracking of progress
  • Create dashboards and other visualisations that communicate instantly and can easily be shared
  • Be a tool for informing and educating about innovation in general and new insights, tools, and approaches in particular

Using new approaches based on gamification techniques and simulations are the way forward as the promised to deliver against all of the above.

However, it should also be acknowledged that the impact of Innovation Assessment is only as good as Senior Management’s determination and commitment to action on the insights and results.

To close with some thoughts from Carol:

She sometimes wondered how committed senior management were to truly actioning the results; she sometimes felt that actions were taken if the assessment results coincided with what management wanted to do anyhow, and if it did not require them personally to change. Unless true commitment was felt and experienced, Carol realized that the best and most engaging Innovation Assessment could not make much of a difference.

By Rui Patricio & Bettina von Stamm

About the authors

Rui Patricio is the Co-founder and CEO of CONTINUE TO GROW and Managing Director of Digitalflow. He is passionate about helping organizations implement innovation cutting edge programs that enable the deployment of differentiation and value added strategies. With more than 20 years experience in management and technology, Rui is a project coordinator, an active speaker, author, lecture and workshop leader on different topics of innovation and procurement.


Dr Bettina von Stamm, founder of the Innovation Leadership Forum, has been an original and visionary thinker in the field of innovation since 1992. She very much enjoys her role as a stimulator, provocateur, inspirator and catalyst to enable different ways of thinking around, understanding, and enabling innovation. In addition to public speaking, delivering bespoke as well as custom workshop and seminars Bettina contributes to executive and post graduate programmes at prestigious universities and organisations throughout the world.

Photo : Assessment by Shutterstock.com

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