Reviewing innovation metrics and KPIs to apply for design thinking stages

In this article, we take a look at creating simple design thinking metrics or KPIs that may be applied to your scenario. From the perspective of an innovation facilitator or design thinking coach, it can be useful to think about the behaviors you’d like to see participants adapt and the metrics that would help quantify that adoption. Measuring things along a funnel or stage process (or applying the Stanford d School Design Thinking steps) can help you align your goals with organizational-wide outcomes. A simple 3-stage design thinking process innovative thinking coaching model we use includes the stages of Challenge, Ideas, and Action. From this model, you can determine metrics that are both tangible and measurable through each of these stages. Here are some simple design thinking metrics or innovation KPIs you might use. You can also use this as a starting point to determine your own KPIs or metrics for your unique scenario, project, or process.

Design Thinking Metrics and KPIs

1: Challenge Stage (Empathize and Define Steps)

During the Challenge Stage, participants would interview users, customers, or stakeholders and look for insights into the problem or challenge at hand. Reaching out through several interviews can be useful, rather than focusing on one or two subjects — quantity over quality is often more substantial for developing analysis. Through these interviews, participants should be able to define the opportunities and the challenges to overcome.

  • Key Metric: number of interviews with target stakeholders
  • Key Metric: number of questions defined from empathy gaining activities

2: Ideation Stage (Ideate Step)

This second phase is all about developing that mindset to produce a greater quantity of ideas. During these professional brainstorming sessions, participants may be amazed to find that they can generate 100 ideas or more for the challenge they are working on. It may seem extreme, but it is possible and leads to plenty of raw and useful materials (or puzzle pieces as we sometimes think of them!) to work with.

  • Key Metric: number of ideas

3: Action Stage (Prototype and Test Steps)

During this last phase, participants will both prototype and test their solutions. You can measure these tests as they run to validate both the idea and the prototyped implementation of that idea.

  • Key Metric: number of prototypes
  • Key Metric: number of tests run of prototypes

Putting It All Together

After these stages of the process, the idea would now be live and you can start to use more traditional metrics like time, cost savings, revenue generated, etc. Oftentimes in our own coaching sessions and workshops, we find that having these early-stage design thinking metrics and KPIs allow teams to stay focused on the task at hand and motivated to follow through with achieving their goals. For instance, they may decide to interview 5 people, create 20 ideas from the opportunities defined, build 3 prototypes, and then begin with 1 test to their group of users. This is a simple way to look at applying design thinking metrics or KPIs to your own project to get started quickly and make progress within the week. If you are looking for more advanced innovation metrics and KPIs, take a look at the innovation metric research from Killer Innovations and BSC Designer. has helped organizations just like yours implement successful innovation and design thinking workshops and sessions, both in-person and virtually.  Reach out to us today if you’d like personalized advice and assistance at designing or running your own innovation workshop.