Friday, 25 January 2013


Measuring Creativity

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) - Performance Metrics – Customer Satisfaction Index - Attributes, Variable, Factors, Percentages and Ratios

Have you ever been tasked with designing and implementing a performance measurement management system? If you have or even if you are tasked to adhere to one, you’ll know there are pitfalls, do’s and don’ts.

But when it comes to measuring creativity, say in design or ideation or a marketing campaign; the house of balanced score cards often comes crashing on down.

For instance, I recall a shiny new penny CEO turning up at a rather well known Lighting Product company in the UK; demanding that all company processes be objectly measured. As the metrics came in I was asked to measure my man-hours spent on idea generation and conceptualisation. Then measure how much time on actual engineering development, and how much time spent on prototyping and testing the gadget.

Man months later after an operations review I was pulled in to a meeting to answer the question, ‘why do you keep going over the same sub-process (concept design) again and again? It’s a waste of valuable time.’

I said (in paraphrase), ‘Creativity is often an iterative process, where one hones and refines a design until it meets the technical targets. Then if it doesn’t, you take a day off to refresh the mind and start again on new angle, a different point of view to get to a new solution. And again the iterative process starts. And it’s not unusual to go through this start again process umpteen times.’

‘But that’s inefficient’ I was told by the CEO. ‘You must aim to get it right first time.’ The CEO gave the same edict to the rest of the 30 strong design department.

There is strong evidence that constraints like time pressure and tight budgets improves creativity, but the restraint of right first time, is fallacy. 

For example, I worked on a single design project for a number of years, then right at the last moment, a flash of inspiration took the design not only to a new level, but a completely new vector of design-space.

From that orienation, I won my second British Design Council Award (BDCA).

I went to the gala dinner presentation at the Savoy Hotel, London, with – yes the CEO and his team. At the cocktail party after the presentation the CEO came up to me and said ‘Let’s have look at your award.’ I passed it over and he admired my trophy. He then looked at me and said, ‘have you any more thoughts on how you should measure your time in design young man.’

I looked at the BDCA.


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