Say “Yes” to Innovation: A Six-Part Series on Cultivating an Atmosphere for Change

The journey to an innovation culture requires a destination and milestones, progress that can be tracked, reported, and understood by leadership.
Say “yes” To Innovation: A Six-part Series On Cultivating An Atmosphere For Change

We’ve come to the end of this series on innovation with a clear idea of what innovation means and what behavioral skills contribute to an innovation culture. And we’ve demonstrated that women are “engineered” to lead and foster innovation. The big question remaining is, “How do we know if we’re innovating?”

Peter Drucker’s familiar quote, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is true. Without some ways of measuring innovation, you won’t know when you’ve been successful. Metrics of innovation may include:[i]

  • Leading indicators: the percentage of employees trained in the process for innovation, the size and strength of internal and external collaborative ecosystems, the number of meaningful ideas in the pipeline, the balance and robustness of the pipeline, and the rate of idea commercialization.
  • Lagging indicators: revenue from new products, profit impact, the effect of innovation on brand.

But the metrics listed above are examples of indicators that innovation is already taking place. We should also measure the development, the process of innovation.   Sound tricky? Let’s break it down.

As we discussed in earlier blogs, creating an innovation culture requires cultivating an atmosphere for change: a culture where mistakes and failures are expected and seen as learning opportunities, a culture of experimentation, a culture that thrives on collaboration. The journey to an innovation culture is like any other journey. It  requires a destination and milestones – measures of progress – that can be tracked, reported, and understood by leadership.

Measuring an intangible such as culture change isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible. You can apply a numerical system to it, as I’ll outline below, but keep in mind that the real measure of progress won’t be numeric. The evidence will be observable changes in the way things are getting done.

Start with the destination; that is, the goal. Every organization’s goal should be the growth of the organization’s innovation potential, and to root out the structural and leadership barriers that will slow or stop progress. To do this you first need to understand where your organization is right now. Through an evaluation, you establish a baseline. Then, after a reasonable period of time, you repeat the evaluation and see how far the needle has moved. The pace of change is different for every organization, so you need to determine what’s a reasonable time period for yours. In general, though, you’re probably looking at six months to a year.

The Rainforest Scorecard[ii] is an evaluation tool I highly recommend. It’s the brainchild of Henry Doss and Alistair Brett, partners at Rainforest Strategies, LLC, where they focus on applying innovation science to developing innovation ecosystems – what they call Rainforests.

You can use the Rainforest Scorecard to assess your organization’s readiness to innovate. Its beauty lies in its ability to generate a quantitative baseline for measuring progress without getting so hung up in the numbers that it gets in the way of managing the process.

You can download the scorecard here: Rainforest Scorecard Assessment Book.pdf.

There are two versions of the scorecard in the book: a short form and a long form. Both forms address six categories of innovation:

  • Leadership
  • Frameworks, Infrastructure, and Policies
  • Resources
  • Activities and Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Culture

Here are my recommendations for getting the most benefit from the scorecard:

  • Have a diverse group of people complete the assessment. Invite people from R&D, design, construction, production, operations, management, and other functions. Aggregate the results to obtain the most objective view of the organization.
  • Start with the short form. It will reinforce the concepts that are key to innovation.
  • Use the scorecard to get a sense of your organization’s strengths and Achilles’ heels. You can look at this from a category level – for example, leadership overall – or you can zero in on a particular item, such as “Overall, leadership promotes innovation.” Either way, your areas of strength will be those where your scores are highest and your opportunities for improvement will be those where your scores are lowest.
  • The scorecard has built-in “weights” by virtue of the total maximum points available for each category. Culture is the most heavily-weighted, followed by Leadership. Frameworks, Infrastructure, and Policies and Resources are equally weighted just behind Leadership. Least heavily weighted, but not unimportant, are Activities and Engagement and Role models. Keep these weights in mind as you look at the scores. If your highest scores are in the most heavily-weighted categories of culture and leadership, you can pat yourselves on the back.
  • But don’t be too quick to celebrate. Even in a highly-scored category you may have an Achilles’ heel. Look closely at the scores on the items in each category for ones that pose potential roadblocks to your journey toward innovation.

* * * * * * *

This brings us to the end of this series, “Say ‘Yes’ to Innovation.” I hope that I’ve challenged your thinking, given you ideas, and provided you with a few tools to help you create a culture of innovation. Please contact me. I’d love to hear your feedback, questions, and suggestions.

If you’ve missed any of the articles, don’t despair. Check our website Talent Strategy Partners in late November where I’ll post all of them in the form of an e-book.

About the Author

Patricia Schaeffer

Patricia Schaeffer is co-founder of Talent Strategy Partners, a leadership development consulting firm that collaborates with executives to identify and develop a pipeline of emerging leaders ready to fill mission-critical positions. You can reach Pat at (215) 275-7430 or

[i] Shelton, Rob. These Five Behaviors Can Create an Innovation Culture. strategy+business (S+B Blogs), June 30, 2016.

[ii] Doss, Henry and Brett, Alistair. The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential. Regenwald, Los Altos, CA, edition 1, January 2015.

Author(s) Information

  • Say “Yes” to Innovation: A Six-Part Series on Cultivating an Atmosphere for Change []

    SWE Blog

    SWE Blog provides up-to-date information and news about the Society and how our members are making a difference every day. You’ll find stories about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM-related topics.