Wednesday, December 22, 2021

A response from Mark Jarvis on "Defining characteristics of five levels of innovation maturity"

Mark W. Jarvis is an innovation guru at UNO MINDA Group and Head of International Business Development at INITIA Design Studio. We met at an innovation management session at IIM Bangalore a few years ago. He has been extremely kind to give constructive inputs on my blog "Defining characteristics of five levels of innovation maturity". He has separated the characteristics into two categories - one for innovation managers and practitioners inside the organization and the other for stakeholders and innovation benchmarking outside the organization. Moreover, he has expressed his concerns on some of the metric parameters like the number of patents that bother him and suggested better parameters. Thanks a lot, Mark. Appreciate your input.

Hello Vinay,

I very much like your “Defining Characteristics of Five Levels of Innovation Maturity”.

I think it is important for any defining characteristic to be “easily” obtained … and distinguished by availability to the “inside the corporation” innovator or to the “outside the corporation” stakeholder.

Since I am always thinking of how to turn things into charts for PowerPoint slides … here is a chart summarizing your thoughts … with some added 
from me.

Inside Corporation  

(for Innovation Managers and Participants)  

Outside Corporation  

(for Stakeholders and Innovation Benchmarking)  

Level 1  




No Tracking  

Likely an authoritarian workplace riddled with confusion, panic, fear, or lethargy. 😉

No Published Evidence Of Managed Innovation   

(or Evidence Of Sustained Poor Market Performance)  

Level 2  




Innovation Dashboard In Use  


Pipeline, Velocity, and Impact (Process and Outcome) Indicators  

Company-specific Innovation Metrics are gathered and reviewed by management and shared with innovation community.    

Annual Report (R&D spend, Number of R&D centers, Number of patents, Number of new SKUs, Number of new product launches, etc.)  

Level 3  




Rigor and Rhythm of Innovation Review  

Rigorous Innovation reviews (feasibility, desirability, scalability, viability, etc) with consequences (for example, projects de-funded or extra-funded) that are well-communicated.   

Observe who attends, clarity of strategic challenges, innovation champion support, and resource re-allocations.  


Level 4  




Innovation Sandbox   

Innovation Sandbox(es) that is focused by a strategic challenge area, has experimentation capacity, dedicated (politically protected) resources and patient management.  

Press Release or other communications about Innovation Sandbox.    

(Note – it is difficult to gauge the quality of the Sandbox effort from outside the corporation)  

Another type of “Innovation Sandbox’ is a well-managed Outside Innovation effort.  

Level 5  




30%+ Revenue from Innovations in the Last Five Years  

Internal Innovation Dashboard metrics will explicitly include tracking of Revenue from Innovation in the Last Five Years and related long-view systemic innovation metrics.  

Annual Report Revenue Contribution (or Growth Contribution)  

Additional thoughts …

About counting the number of patents … this metric bothers me a bit … as I have seen it misused or misunderstood … but I agree it is a good place to start. As a quantity metric it is easy to measure and communicate. Much better would be a patent strategic quality measure … that tracks the business impact of a patent … or tracks the size of patent space covered … or tracks the quantity/quality of patents that reference your patent. But these quality metrics are not easy to come by … or are easily manipulated. I am optimistic that future innovators will have access to affordable software/analyzers to guide and assess a company’s intellectual property portfolio (including patent mapping (Clarivate’s Innography, etc) and patent valuation (Anaqua’s AQX, etc)). Note – one exception to my thinking on this metric comes to mind … perhaps the USA pharmaceutical industry … which seems to extract huge margins through the sheer quantity (sometimes hundreds) of slightly differentiated patents for a key pharmaceutical product.

About Innovation Sandboxes … It is extremely important that sandboxes be politically protected by patient and enlightened management. Typically, there are corporate jealousy, lack-of-cooperation, and unreasonable payoff time behaviors that distract and destroy Sandboxes. For “outside the corporation” folks … I added Outside Innovation as a “type of Sandbox” … since a company’s Outside Innovation efforts (by definition) are readily observed (Maruti-Suzuki’s MAIL, etc.).

About Level 3 Defining Characteristic To An Insider … In addition to robust Innovation Reviews, innovators will notice that leaders will innovate by walking around ("What new thing did you explore this week?") and have pleasant discussions about smart failure.

About Level 3 Defining Characteristic To An Outsider … I am wondering what this could be … to a company stakeholder (investor, financial journalist, innovation benchmarker, etc.)?

I am happy to know your (and others) additional thoughts.

Mark Jarvis

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