Questions to Ask When Assessing Innovation

Innovation Assessment

Companies that want to remain competitive are making innovation one of their guiding principles. They want to be able to be pioneers and trendsetters, but also still deliver great bottom line results. It’s not uncommon for company leadership to talk about innovation as a foundational principle for their company.

But how do you know that these values are embedded and experienced by everyone at an enterprise-size organization? You might want to conduct an innovation assessment to find out if those values are adopted or just lip service. So what things should you ask about in an innovation assessment of your company culture?

Ask about boundaries. Collaboration (especially between diverse people and groups) is the bedrock of innovation. Most great ideas are the results of combinations of inspirations, fragments, trends, and more. Ask your employees if they feel they are strictly bound by their role or department if they think cross-collaboration is possible if they think good ideas can be shared anywhere.

Ask about failure. Innovation always risks failure (after all, 80% of new products fail each year).  If an organization says that it cares about innovation, but then punishes or sweeps failures under the rug, then there’s no way that employees will feel the risk tolerance that is necessary for innovation to thrive. So,  inquire about how employees feel when a project doesn’t perform, ask about how the learning curve is tolerated and ask for examples of all these things.

Ask about feedback. Innovation requires constant communication and that means listening: to your leadership and stakeholders, of course, but (more importantly) to your customers, front-line employees, partners, and the public. There’s a reason why companies that excel at idea management perform better than others.  Is there an idea management system where you can scalably gather that feedback? Are feedback and ideas shared transparently throughout the organization? Does everyone know what’s being said and feel empowered to respond? Ask where employees and customers can share their ideas and feedback and see if it meets these qualifications.

Ask about metrics. If something is foundational to a company, surely leadership will find a way to report on it. For many companies, innovation is measured in top-line revenue growth, some measure patents filed, some report on whether or not they’ve captured a new market. If you’re interested in learning more about innovation metrics, download our infographic on the subject. Find out if your employees know how you’re measuring innovation and how it’s performing so far.

Ask about resources. Finally, is there a team in place whose performance is tied to innovation? Do they have goals, a process for stewarding ideas? Do they have a budget? Are they continuously engaging and launching new ideas? Even if you do have these resources in place, but nobody at your organization knows about them, you’re still not communicating the importance of innovation. Find out if your employees know about these things or if they feel empowered by them.

What else should you ask if you’re going to assess your organization’s innovation culture?