Measuring culture, performance, and innovation

Culture drives performance and innovation.   But can we describe, quantify, measure, and manage all the variables in an ecosystem which determine culture?

My colleague Henry H. Doss and I answer this question in the just published The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential. The book is short (35 pages) to enable quick application of its content. The Scorecard provides a systematic, comprehensive, detailed strategy for assessing and quantifying all elements of an organizational culture with respect to its capacity for innovation.   The framework serves as tactical scaffolding upon which innovation culture can be built at scale, in any organization, public or private.

The Scorecard contains sets of questions proving a comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s innovation potential. The scoring methodology is based on the notion that objective scoring is a necessary, initial step to begin the process of cultural change. The scale, scope and level of detail which may be reached in completing this process will vary from organization to organization, and is a function of available time and resources. However, irrespective of scale, all assessment efforts will follow certain guidelines, in order to optimize their return on the effort required to complete the scorecard.

The Scorecard brings together the rainforest metaphor (see December 2014 blog) as described by T2VC’s founders Greg Horowitt and Victor Hwang in The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley together with much of what has been discussed in this series of blogs.

The concept of system state variables was introduced in our December 2013 blog. The Scorecard quantifies critical state variables of innovation as: Leadership; Frameworks, Infrastructure and Policies; Organizational Resources; Activities and Engagement; Role Models; and Culture. The book guides the user through a detailed question and answer process, which in turn creates both an innovation profile and a clear, direct process for building innovation into an organization.

But, can we really claim to be able to measure such variables in a complex adaptive ecosystem? After all, in previous blogs in this series we have constantly banged on about lack of predictability and uncertain relationships between cause and effect in these far-from-equilibrium systems.

We can, because complex adaptive systems have ‘basins of stability’ – as introduced in our August 2014 blog  – which are steady state systems maintained by the feeding in of external energy. For corporations and innovation ecosystems this equilibrium would be a kind of self-satisfied stasis. However, if this maintaining heat vanishes the system may flip into another steady state, one ‘basin of stability,’ to another which will require new maintaining energy. In the language of complex adaptive systems these steady states – regions of quasi-stability or system-level order are known as ‘attractors.’ Empirical research has shown that in large complex systems such as communities and corporations, these attractors maintain conditions required for emergent self-organization, adaptive capability – and measurement.

The Scorecard process and scoring model seek to describe an ideal organizational ‘system state’—the aggregate set of conditions or features of systems that are generally present in innovative organizations. This idealized model is in turn used as a gauge against which organizations can measure and evaluate their own state of innovation.

The Rainforest Scorecard is part of an overall implementation process being developed by T2VC inspired by the impact of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which the U.S. created in 1988 to foster and recognize organizational excellence. In ways similar to the Baldrige Award, this process guides organizations through structured, outcome-oriented conversations about innovation states, focusing on several key areas of assessment; these organizational conversations in turn support the creation of innovation ecosystems that make communities, organizations and businesses more resilient and sustainable.

The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential is released under a Creative Commons license, so that the world can “remix, tweak, and build upon” this work non-commercially. We just ask that you credit the original book and license your work under the same terms.

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