20 January 2007

…of metrics for design and innovation. A fool's errand.

“The purpose of business is to create a customer.”
~ Peter Drucker

A business invests in only two things, marketing and innovation. Every other expenditure is a cost – the price of being in business. Marketing and innovation are the two areas where a business has an opportunity to reap extraordinary rate of return. Metrics are absolutely necessary and typically well established for costs such as accounting, finance, operations, customer service and manufacturing. But metrics, as we know of them now, have no place in measuring the success of design and innovation.

Bill Breen’s recent column[1] in the February issue of Fast Company discusses the thinking behind Chuck Jones’ efforts to install a metric system to gauge the success of innovation at Whirlpool. I suppose it varies from company to company, but I think the notion of metrics specific to innovation is a fool’s errand. It represents the business world’s efforts to conform design thinking to the ideals of command and control management and the language of business. The true measure of innovation is success in the marketplace. Granted, there are a lot of steps along a process that can sour a potentially stellar product, and metrics are perfectly appropriate for many of those steps. (full paper)