Measuring Creativity and Innovation

As a leader you need to be able to evaluate your employees’ performance so you know what works and you can improve upon what doesn’t. Measuring creativity and innovation, however, is hard to do. It is easy to know how many cases a detective solves or how many widgets an assembly line worker makes, but measuring how creative or innovative someone is…well, that is tricky.

The folks at Boston Consulting Group spend a lot of time on this topic, looking for the most innovative companies every year, and that means they have to measure innovation consistently. That raises a very interesting question: if you want your employees to be innovative, are you measuring for that and evaluating it? A survey they did in 2009 shed some light on how internal practices might not match up with internal desires. In questions about measuring innovation within a company, 73% of their respondents agreed they should be measuring innovation, but only 46% said they were doing so, and even fewer were satisfied with the measurement being done.

To measure your employees’ job performance you need to find something that’s not only measurable, but also relevant. Look for outputs and effects of their creativity, not something that just shows how many hours they put into their work, but more importantly, how well that time was spent. Some possibilities, depending on your field, include:

– Client satisfaction: does your Creative meet their clients’ demands for creativity?

– Awards or other peer evaluations: how is their work regarded by others in their field?

– Repeat business: do their clients keep coming back for more work, or do they refer new clients to your firm?

– Revenue growth: does their creativity turn into cash inflows?

– Patents: are your employees developing new things, or just improvements on old ideas?

– New products: are they stuck in a rut or are they coming up with something original?

How you use these measurements is pretty much up to you. You can set specific targets, or just monitor trends. Whichever way you go, though, you need to clearly set expectations up front. Measuring results, and then defining your standards afterwards, can lead to a setting of standards specifically designed to meet the results you already have. As the leader, you need to be able to explain why these are the appropriate criteria for measuring creativity. Some measurements may be qualitative rather than quantitative…instead of being numbers-based it might be a case of “I know it when I see it.” That’s OK, but again, you need to be able to explain your criteria in advance.

As for using incentives to reach these standards, or enforcing them if they are not met…well, that’s a conversation for another time.

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