Measuring Innovation Impact

Measuring Innovation Impact

People often ask us how to measure the results of an innovation program. And in truth, the value of these programs is often hard to determine, particularly when we treat innovation as the goal, rather than (correctly!) viewing innovation as a means to an end. And so we end up counting artifacts (i.e. publications, attendees, participants, etc) rather than measuring the actual output of the program (i.e. what problems did we solve, what value did we create, what improvements did we make, etc).

Now, it’s hard to measure something if you don’t know what it is. That’s why I recommend we look to ITK’s definition of innovation (“novelty with impact”) before creating our measurement plans. That three-word definition points us towards the thing we should be monitoring and measuring – the output of our innovation efforts. It centers our discussion on WHY we do innovation in the first place, because it poses the question “What impact are we trying to have?

Once we know what impact we’re trying to have, it’s pretty obvious what we should measure. If our innovation is “a new technology that saves lives, then obviously the thing we should measure is the number of lives we’ve saved. If the innovation is “a new process that saves time,” the thing to measure is how much time we saved. If we’re looking across a portfolio of innovation projects, adding up all those measurable impacts will give us a good sense of the portfolio’s success or failure.

In contrast, if our goal is just to “be innovative” then we’ll probably have a hard time figuring out what to measure.

Defining innovation as “novelty with impact” also helps us avoid the superficial version of innovation that overemphasizes newness and underplays impact. It points out that innovation without impact is not innovation, it’s just novelty. When we keep that in mind, we’re more likely to get the results we hoped for.

photo credit: Clément Bucco-Lechat

Writing is…

Writing is…

Writing is HARD.

I think that one of the reasons that writing is hard is that it requires clarity of thought. It requires a purpose. And the blank page can imply a lack of both.

Writing also requires a certain level of technical skill, in order to avoid using awkward phrases like “I think that one of the reasons that writing is hard is that…” Yikes. That’s some bad writing right there.

HOWEVER… the secret to good writing is to first write badly. Good writing is just bad writing, rewritten. And so, good writers allow themselves to write bad first drafts, turning off their inner editor and letting the words flow, however messily.

One might even perform an exercise such as the following:

“These words I am currently writing are the wrong words. I am writing them but they are not exactly what I want to say. This is ok. I will delete these words later, because they do not make my point, do not advance the narrative, do not add clarity or value to the overall piece, and some of them are probbabbly misssplled. They do, however, help me build momentum and they give me something to work with, even if the only work to be done is the work of deletion. I will now delete this previous paragraph, because what I really want to say is…”

So… maybe writing is EASY.

Just put ink on paper.
Edit later.
Think later.
Yeah, I like that.
Ink now, think later.
Maybe that makes sense.
Maybe it’s true.
Maybe it’s good advice?
I don’t know yet, but I might know tomorrow, when I come back to this page and read it with tomorrow’s eyes, a fresh eraser, and a sharpened pencil.

What does this have to do with ITK? A lot, actually, because communication is a key aspect of innovation. The best ideas in the world are worthless if we can’t express them clearly, so developing our ability to write is an important component of our ability to innovate.

ITK Beyond Innovation

ITK Beyond Innovation

The funny thing about the Innovation Toolkit is… it’s not really about innovation.

Or more specifically, it’s not just about innovation. Most of our focus is actually on helping teams work together to solve hard problems. The fact that this approach to collaborative problem-solving tends to produce results that are novel and impactful (i.e. innovative) is sot of an added bonus. But the whole “working well together” thing is the main point.

Then again, the ITK movement is all about new ways of working together, bringing new groups together in new and interesting ways. We help teams function more effectively by being more collaborative, by asking better questions, and embracing more diversity. We introduce new tools and new techniques that help to unlock new levels of creativity.

So… maybe that’s what’s so innovative about ITK. Maybe the real innovation is the friends we made along the way.


Which ITK Stakeholder tool should I use and when?

Which ITK Stakeholder tool should I use and when?

Tips on selecting from the 5 different ITK stakeholder tools

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Planning for stakeholders falls into three general steps:

  1. Identifying who is a relevant stakeholder;
  2. Assessing which stakeholders to engage with; and
  3. Assessing the optimal engagement approach.

The Innovation Toolkit now has 5 stakeholder-related tools, which serve different purposes and are complementary with each other. These tools are best used early in the effort, but they can be revisited whenever the effort needs to interact or collaborate with the people involved, interested, or impacted by the effort.

Here are some quick tips for when to use each stakeholder tool.

ITK Tool What is it Scope of Tool When to use it Why use it

Stakeholder Identification Canvas


Ideate a more comprehensive & representative set of relevant stakeholders to your effort (Ideally) All stakeholders Step #1 – Identifying who is a relevant stakeholder The embedded equity lens helps broaden the team’s perspective to consider stakeholders beyond the default set

Community Map


A fast way to capture and prioritize stakeholders (Ideally) All stakeholders Step #1 – Identifying who is a relevant stakeholder Can be conducted very quickly because of the simple and intuitive categories (which can be tailored to the team’s effort)
Stakeholder Power Categories Quickly categorize and assess which stakeholders to engage Multiple stakeholders Step #2 – Assessing which stakeholders to engage with The embedded equity lens highlights impacted stakeholders and how to elevate their roles on the effort

Stakeholder Map & Matrix


Look across multiple stakeholders and categorize them according to key variables (e.g., interest, influence, impact) Multiple stakeholders Step #2 – Assessing which stakeholders to engage with Can assess and compare multiple stakeholders at the same time

Quickstart Stakeholder Engagement Canvas


A quick way to begin developing a plan for effectively engaging a stakeholder Individual stakeholder Step #3 – Assessing the optimal engagement approach The embedded equity lens helps the team explore four additional considerations beyond the default to help create more equity-informed engagements

While there are many stakeholder-related methods and tools on the market, our goal with these ITK stakeholder tools is to help teams quickly get started or unstuck when thinking through how to include relevant stakeholders for their effort. We encourage teams to use the ITK tools in combination with other market tools to successfully identify, assess, and plan engagements with stakeholders.

Let us know how it goes in the comments below!


The Challenging Practice of Silence

Today’s post is by soon-to-be certified ITK Facilitator Casey Creech

I learned an important lesson about facilitation in 9th grade English class.

I wanted help spelling a word. I don’t remember the word. I do remember my teacher handing me the dictionary. She said, “Where can you find it in here?”

As I took the dictionary back to my desk, I remember feeling stunned. The more I sat with it on my desk, the more I became frustrated. I wanted a quick answer.

  • She knew I was in a rush.
  • I didn’t’ have time to look up the answer.
  • I need it now before class ended.
  • She was the expert.
  • Why didn’t she tell me the answer?

It took me over 30 years to realize the value in her lesson. It was the move of a grand master. A guru of teachers. If she had told me the answer, she would have stolen the knowledge from me. The knowledge of finding the answer myself.

I realize a truth now. When we rush to help others, we often become a thief. A thief stealing lessons of learning.

When we ask questions, we create silence. The more open ended our questions, the greater the silence. The greater the tension. Tension is where learning occurs. Tension is where breakthroughs happen.

Practicing silence is challenging. You must resist primal urges. When you ask a question and there is not response, often it feels like this:

  • After 3 seconds, you become tempted to clarify. To remove the silence.
  • At 5 seconds, your internal voice may start asking, “Did anyone hear me?”
  • At 10 seconds, it can feel like you are failing. Every second after this seems like an eternity.

Yet in these moments of silence, the group is experiencing similar tension. They are learning how to best answer the question themselves. You are giving time to discovering an answer. It is a gift mixed with a little alchemy.

I often count after I ask a question. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three… I’ve never gotten to 20 seconds. Someone has always spoken. This moment relieves the tension. Someone else filling the void opens the group to discussion.

The trick is not to let it be you. Let silence create the tension needed for the group to move forward.

How can you give the gift of silence to the next group you work with?



Intro To Personal Anthropology

Intro To Personal Anthropology

I’d like to introduce you to a handy little technique I use called “noticing how I work, writing that down, and sharing it.” I think of it as a type of personal anthropology, with my work persona as the primary subject of study.

I highly recommend adopting this practice in your own work, for several reasons. First, I find it makes my work better, because I’m constantly collecting data about what’s actually working for me. I’m observing and documenting my own patterns, then experimenting with ways to improve them. Second, it makes me a better partner because it gives me a steady stream of ideas to contribute to the team. And I should also mention it’s kinda fun.

Let’s break it down into the three main steps.

Noticing is simultaneously easy and hard. It’s easy because you are always with yourself, always physically present at your own activities. There is no need to make special arrangements, manage conflicting schedules, or fear coming across like some creepy stalker (why is that guy following me?). It’s also hard because there are loads of distractions. You’re busy doing the thing, so remembering to make a note of how you do it requires deliberate intention and effort. Good news – you can do your noticing after the fact, remembering and reflecting instead of observing and recording in real-time. The question to ask yourself is basically “What did I do, and how’s that working out for me?”

It’s super tempting to skip this step, but please don’t. Putting words on paper (and I literally mean paper, please and thank you) helps us process and understand our experiences. This also records them for future evaluation, but even if you never re-read your old notebooks, the benefit of having written it in the first place is hard to overstate. Your first draft doesn’t have to be super detailed – in my case, I literally wrote the words “notice / write / share” in a notebook… then used that as the seed of this blog post. And remember, good writing is just bad writing that’s been rewritten, so give yourself permission to write a bad first draft (I LOVE bad first drafts). It is much easier to revise a bad first draft than to edit a blank sheet of paper. And if you honestly want to improve your writing, the best advice I can give is to read a lot.

Sharing your observations and practices may feel presumptuous, but it is actually a generous contribution to the community. Letting people in on your learning and passing along your reflections helps to build a culture of collaboration, trust, and learning. Don’t worry if your story feels obvious or basic, or like something everyone already knows. I find that adults need to be reminded more often than they need to be informed, and you may have a new take on an old idea. At the very least, by sharing your practices you’re making it easier for other people to do so as well.

(and not to get too meta about it, but did you notice this post is about noticing how I notice things…)