Payback! Making innovation pay

How does one quantify innovation? This Wharton Business School interview takes a crack at the answer, talking with the authors of a new book, Payback! Reaping the Rewards of Innovation, about applying process to the creative act.

[James P.] Andrew and [Harold L.] Sirkin believe that in order to profit from theirinnovations, companies need to develop a process to collect, screen and nurture new ideas and 'commercialize and realize them in a way that achieves payback.' They explain concepts such as the 'cash curve' -- which lets firms track and manage the innovation process -- and the 'cash trap' -- which refers to supposedly innovative products that perpetually hemorrhage cash.

Measuring innovation seems like a contradiction in terms - after all, how does one capture the zeitgeist? How does one manage inspiration? As this patent study suggests, the application of six sigma metrics does tend to result in incremental improvements rather than the implementation of big ideas. But as Andrew and Sirkin suggest, how one "takes the idea forward," matters. A lot.