This is a difficult topic. There is definitely some merit in the adage of “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. However, I have seen too many examples in which smart people get side-tracked on what really matters – the output – as they try to develop metrics in order to satisfy executives further up in the system.
The development of metrics for innovation in general has been a major topic for more than two decades. Yet there is no clear guidance on how companies should approach this in a way that makes it possible to measure internally let alone across competitors and/or different industries.
One reason is that larger companies have several business units with different kinds of products and services. Even with the same company, it can feel like comparing apples and oranges. We also need to remind ourselves that innovation has lots of unknowns and intangibles and you cannot afford to loose the needed flexibility in order to meet some specific metric parameters.
Furthermore, it also takes getting enough data to show trends and patterns. In these times of fast change, there is a good chance that the processes you set out to measure will change significantly over time making it more difficult to actually use this input for measuring purposes.
As companies are still developing their open innovation capabilities, I think the main focus should be on measuring progress in what you do. Perhaps you can find some inspiration in this:
Organizational maturity: How well is your organization adapting to this new paradigm shift? This can be measured by the use of simple surveys among the employees and by cross-checking with external partners.
Ecosystem happiness: Your partners are important for innovation success so you need to develop metrics that track the progress within an ecosystem. Perhaps there should be an ecosystem or partner happiness index. Yes, it sounds corny, but there might be something in this idea.
Thought leadership / branding of capabilities: How others view your open innovation capabilities is critical. There is lots of experience on tracking marketing and PR efforts that can be relevant for getting a better understanding on this. A few potential metrics could be number of visits to the destination site, followers on Twitter, discussions in communities and mentions in articles.
Innovation output: Metrics on this can provide an overview on how innovation projects with a key external element perform compared with projects having a high degree of internal input.