Math is the innovation gas pedal

Years ago at Procter & Gamble my team and I were trying to sort out what to do after having just gotten some horrible product testing results. Tim Feely, who I believe was a Product Development Director at the time, stopped into the meeting and told us, “Numbers are your friend when innovating.”    

At that moment the numbers on the pages in front of me didn’t seem like a very friendly friend. Tim explained that having a solid failure was a gift to us – as it made it clear that what we were doing was not working. It was time to change and to change significantly.

Tim’s comment has stuck with me for over 40 years :). I remembered it last week when a team was stressing that they didn’t have time to get their innovation idea ready to go out with a test that was scheduled. They were afraid they’d fail. My response was to paraphrase Tim, “Numbers are your friend – win or lose we will be smarter than we are now. My vote is to SHIP.”  Note – the idea shipped – setting a record for uniqueness and for purchase. Well – that was a record high for uniqueness and a record low for purchase interest. And from that the team began to pursue another cycle of learning.

The “Numbers” associated with innovation include:

  1. Customer research results on your idea, product/service or non-profit program
  2. Forecasts for sales, profits, fundraising, cost savings
  3. Forecasts for investment required for production or marketing

As I wrote about last week, these numbers are the key to you being able to generate “pull” for your innovation from investors, management and other stakeholders. 


If you don’t know how to do the math GET HELP. Find a numbers person you trust to collaborate with.