Mr. Metrics: Larry Keeley

Doblin Inc., Chicago

As co-founder and president of Doblin Inc., Larry Keeley is one of a handful of people who are inventing a new science of innovation. Keeley's three-dimensional innovation landscapes are not only unique and beautiful to look at but are also tremendously valuable for any company looking for innovation opportunities.

Keeley has done pioneering work in deconstructing different kinds of innovation, building diagnostic measures of innovation, and analyzing the root causes of innovation failure. That places him in the small pack of consultants that chief executives invariably call on.

Paradoxically, the man who might be known as Mr. Metrics because of his focus on measurement also happens to be the keenest critic of managing solely by numbers. "Innovation cannot be done formulaically," says Keeley. "Putting the right numbers into the wrong innovation process won't give you results."

He tells companies that, first of all, they need to discover and understand their own "innovation DNA" -- that is, what they do best -- before they can move on to building systems that improve their innovation "hit rates." He tells companies that the really big hits are often the products that innovate in not one but two or three or more "innovation spaces."

Further, Keeley tells them to focus their brainstorming. "The worst mistake is to have everyone running off generating a million ideas," says Keeley. "The goal is to focus on a very few very bold ideas that tend to work, as opposed to many, many ideas all over the place that tend to fail."

Keeley wants to build a science of innovation effectiveness. To that end he is a member of the board at the Chicago-based Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he teaches graduate design strategy courses. Keeley also lectures at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and at the University of Chicago.

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