Three Ways Innovation Scorecards Can Be Wrong

Three Ways Innovation Scorecards Can Be Wrong

A storied Silicon Valley for-profit research center operated in its early days as a centrally funded idea-factory and early-development lab for new technologies. It drew from the scientific hotbed of the Bay Area and Stanford University in particular. 

Yet operational leaders at its parent company have shown little interest in the center’s fundamental breakthroughs over the decades. Their trillion-dollar economic value has largely been captured by external – and often competing – enterprises.

Pulling the pieces together.

The center’s current chief executive, has now been given the additional role of President of Innovation at the parent company. His challenge is to pull the pieces together and truly integrate the research center’s contributions so they can be scaled through global operations.

Communications with the operating-business leaders at the parent company is key. He needs to help them understand the value of what center contributes.

This center CEO offers a perceptive summary of a structural issue not only for his own firm, but for all quasi-independent research and innovation entities within large corporations. This issue sits at the center of his communications challenges.

“When you look up the org chart at the people funding your work internally,” he shares with ILO, “you want to know what the scorecard is.

“There are three very clear ways to get that scorecard wrong. There are many others as well but these three matter a good deal:

  1. You are not given a real scorecard. Your funding is pushed down but without clear expectations of what will come back up in the end. That can sound good because you might seem to have lots of freedom, but you will be vulnerable to cuts and zeroing out if you are not seen to contribute. So you start working to make up a meaningful scorecard, to execute it, and to get people to pay attention to it.
  2. You are given a non-strategic or misaligned scorecard. You are asked to support businesses units or processes or even industries that are in decline, or are likely to be hived off from the firm, or who strongly resist engaging with you.
  3. You are given a scorecard that is far too ambitious, along the lines of ‘use your magic to save the company, or double our sales, or end our reliance on fossil fuels.”

“This is the problem we have not solved since we were founded in the 1970’s. This is the game changer, for our little center and for the big parent company and for the world we’re trying to serve.”

How to address the three common variations of bad scorecards?

Talk with everyone, often. Share this model for bad scorecards early. Let people know what a good scorecard looks like. Create your own, better scorecard, and publish it, celebrate it, talk about it.