Innovation And Client Happiness

It’s Monday and most of you will not probably be reading this as it is a holiday.  But I wanted to continue my discussion about Innovation and how to measure it from last Friday.

So I debunked/trashed an organizations idea of how to measure innovation, saying that it is not “new” versus “old” nor is it whether or not you were on time/on budget.  So how do you measure innovation?

In any business, it is very difficult but in the Public Sector even more so.  A private company can look at sales, customer retention and operating profit in comparison to competitors and get an idea it still doesn’t tell the full story.  Tesla, if you consider them to be an auto manufacturer, lost money in the last quarter whereas most of the other auto manufacturers made a profit.  If you are losing money are you innovative?  No.  But does any other auto manufacturer have an 18-month waiting list for a vehicle?  Over 1800 people per day go on a waiting list for a Tesla 3.

And if you’ve seen anything of electric vehicles then you know that Tesla would be considered innovative.  So how do you measure it?

In many cases, you just can’t and trying to do so is actually detrimental to innovation.  By trying to objectively measure innovation you tilt everyone’s thinking towards maximizing those numbers.  Measuring innovation by how far under budget you were?  Crank up the budget numbers so you come under.  New versus old?  Divide new systems into dozens of discrete assets so instead of getting a “1” in the new asset column you get a “25”.  Retiring old assets?  Divide those old assets into multiple pieces and delete them separately.  Not one system but ten.

These are all easy ways to play the game and make your innovation numbers seem fantastic.  But the numbers are useless.  Innovation is not objective, it is subjective, and trying to measure subjectivity is obscenely difficult if not impossible.

So don’t try.

Don’t try and measure innovation, measure the impact on the clients. Measure the impacts on Albertans and others who use the tools that we build.  Instead of saying that Student Finance is not innovative because all they do is make modifications to an existing system, take a look and see if the end client is happy.  And take that rating and compare it what it was last year and the year before.  Our clients live and work in the real world and are exposed to thousands of other computer systems.  If we rest on our laurels we will know as our satisfaction numbers will drop.  If we are doing something that benefits our clients the numbers will rise.

And after all, isn’t that what we want?  Satisfied clients?  We seem to be under the mistaken belief that if we are “innovative” then our clients will be happy.  There is no correlation between the two.  Ask Coke about their history with regard to “New Coke”.

Measure our clients on their happiness to see if what you are doing is making a difference.  Want to get a little crazy?  Compare yourself with your peers across the country.  But whatever you do, don’t try to measure innovation by saying that something “new” is innovative.  It is a disservice to everyone around you and a disservice to taxpayers.

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