Is Your Business Biased Against Innovation?

Many people do not typically think of metrics and accounting as roadblocks to innovation, yet you call these out as potential problem areas. Why?

Many conventional metrics we use to estimate value are based on faulty assumptions. Net present value [NPV] is a case in point. The logic of NPV is to project cash flows into the future and then discount those flows back into today’s dollars at a given cost of capital.

Given that money today is always worth more than money in the future, you are trying to establish what the future value of the investment will be in terms of that money’s value today. If it is positive, it’s thumbs up, if it’s negative, it’s thumbs down.

One problem is that NPV calculations tend to compare today with some future state. What they should be used for is to compare today with two different future states: one in which we do nothing and one in which we do something. Doing otherwise biases the business against innovation because what you are projecting may look unattractive relative to your business today.


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About the Author

Rita McGrath, a Professor at Columbia Business School in New York, is one of the world’s leading experts on strategy in highly uncertain and volatile environments. She works with both Global 1,000 icons and smaller, but fast-growing organizations. Some current clients include F-Secure, Nokia, Microsoft, (and its CEO Summit), AXA Equitable, General Electric, Novartis, PPG Industries, the Stena Group and the World Economic Forum. She is a popular speaker and consults to senior leadership teams. In 2009, she was inducted as a Fellow of the Strategic Management Society, an honor accorded to those who have had a significant impact on the field. To read Rita’s complete biography, click here.

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