Thursday, April 05, 2007

Success Podcasts - Phil Mckinney on Innovation Metrics

Innovation guru Phil McKinney , who hosts the Killer Innovations Podcast is always on my “must listen” list. He works for a high-tech company and is a student of innovation. He reads prodigiously and is obviously incredibly passionate about his field.

His podcast for March 18, “Measuring Innovation Impact” was particularly interesting. In it, McKinney presents some of his current thinking on innovation metrics…the “balance sheet” for how a corporation’s innovation processes are progressing.

But it occurred to me…perhaps these metrics could be applied to personal processes in our daily lives, and of course, in smaller business.

Here are a few of McKinney’s metrics, with some of my ideas on how these processes, normally applied, of course, to large tech companies, could be repurposed for use by “the rest of us”:

R&D Spend % across the innovation portfolio (core products, adjacent and new)

In our individual lives, the concept of “R&D Spend” can be applied to time/money/effort spent improving our own personal procedures. In essence, the percentage of our own day spent on improving our own procedures.

Innovation Portfolio Segment 1: Core

McKinney dubs as “core”, the core products of the company. The ones that are the main revenue generators, and the ones that provide an “average” payoff. But these, being core, must, of course, be subjected to scrutiny, since a small improvement might yield a big return.

For instance, I found that shopping for cereal at Target was a dollar cheaper per box than cereal at the supermarket.
Let’s say you set goals twice per year. Would quarterly be better? How often do you look at your goals? Do you have a way to keep them with you throughout the day?

How much time and energy are you spending to improve the procedures that are working for you now?

What about your current job? Are you keeping on top of your “in” box? Your schedule? Is a current client increasing their business? Would it be important to service that client a little better?

Innovation Portfolio Segment 2: Adjacent

In McKinney’s podcast, adjacent products are related to your current products, but have the potential for up to 25% improvements in profitability. Again, this concept can be fruitfully transposed to our personal and small-business procedures.

What areas are new, but closely related our current procedures? For instance, in my case, I practice the Getting Things Done (GTD) method of personal organization, but I never instituted a “tickler” file. So implementing sich an iinovation might might improve the “gross margin:” of my productivity 25% but , since it is not a “breakthrough” (because I already employ GTD), it would be in the “adjacent” category.

So…what portion of my time/energy/money am I spending to improve the “adjacent” areas of my person processes?

Innovation Portfolio Segment 3: New

Mckinney describes the “New” category as having 50% + improvements n gross margin. What could we do to really radically improve our lives by 50%? Are we spending enough time/energy/money in those areas where the payoff might be greatest?

A new business?
A new social circle?
What about a significant expenditure on equipment, promotion, or even of effort?
What if a parent resolved to triple the time spent with their child?
What about a “blockbuster” personal project? Climbing a mountain? Learning Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier over the next year?
A costly seminar in a city 2500 miles away?
Upping your reading time to 3 hours per day? Or 6 hours per weekend?

In McKinney’s model, even these larger projects appear doable because they are part of a known budget of time/energy/money. We can decide in advance that a percentage of time (not all of our time) can be directed in this direction.

I have a friend who might be offered a new job. He can ask himself “would this risk bring a 50% - 100% improvement in my Income?” My satisfaction? My lifetime financial security? My prospects for recognition? Certainly the use of the “gross margin” concept can be applied to any risk/reward proposition or goal we might set for ourselves.


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