A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Netflix's Silicon Valley office and interview one of their top executives. I asked about how they manage their innovation process. The surprising answer I received blew me away: "We don't have an innovation process. We are innovation," was the executive's response.

When we think of best practices for managing innovation, it's easy look to examples from Netflix, Apple, Google, or Facebook.  But most companies aren't like these untouchable icons that seem to have innovation built into their DNA.

Most organizations - and people - need explicit structures, processes, tools and metrics to ensure focus and action around what really matters. Without it, things drift toward the status quo, and often away from what's best for the customer.

Dashboards give you more of what you measure

Management guru Peter Drucker once said, "What's measured, improves."  Said another way, you get what you measure.  What's astounding is that only 22% of companies have metrics to measure their innovation. If you're not measuring it, how can you expect to get it?

One essential tool for getting more creativity, experimentation, and results is the innovation dashboard. Dashboards force focus. They require an organization to define what innovation really means to them, measure it, and make explicit decisions on the resources needed for success.

Dashboards create a single source of truth

There are many ways to structure and build dashboards, from spreadsheets to online SaaS platforms. What matters most is that your dashboard includes both quantitative and qualitative data, and visualizes some of these data through charts and graphs. The goal is to use a few essential measures to create a "single source of truth" for the organization related to its innovation efforts.

Dashboards come in different forms

Since every organization's culture is different, it's important to customize your dashboard to include the most meaningful things to support your innovation journey.  Here's a brief menu to consider:

  • List of priority customer problems, needs or "jobs to be done"
  • List of priority external trends that represent areas of future opportunity
  • Technologies or other capabilities for addressing priority customer problems and leveraging external trends
  • Overall investments in different types of innovation, including comparisons of resources dedicated to different types of innovation (e.g., incremental vs. disruptive or products vs. services)
  • Number of innovations across the entire development process, from concept to commercialization
  • Percent of people trained in the innovation process or dedicated to innovation teams
  • Percent of projects that leverage external technology or partners to help accelerate development
  • Return on investment of new products, services, or business models

These are just of few company-level measures of innovation. Departments and teams can create dashboards too, which can get more granular in the details. The goal of any dashboard is to keep what's important on the radar - so you get more of what matters.