Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Innovation Goals

I read an article by the Heath brothers in the latest issue of Fast Company that really resonated with me. Their article was about setting resolutions, versus setting goals.

Many firms will get religion about innovation and will create some new initiatives or programs about innovation. They'll print up the appropriate placards and table tents and perhaps order those inspirational posters to hang on the walls. But when it comes down to brass tacks, many are unwilling or unable to define and communicate the goals of the initiative. This is similar to my yearly quest to lose weigh.

Each year, January 1st, I decide that I need to lose weight. So I'll create a resolution to decide to lose some weight. In the Fast Company article, the Heath brothers note that when Congress decides to change something, they write a law. When they are upset about something but can't agree or don't know what to do, they write a resolution, which is not binding.

Here's the problem. People in corporate america are really good at understanding the difference between platitudes and expected results. When another initiative comes down the pike, whether it's employee engagement or innovation or be nice to your neighbor day, they investigate to understand a couple of key points.

First, how broadly is this communicated? The more consistently and completely communicated the program is, the more likely the program is to be implemented and to have meaning.

Second, are there specific timeframes and goals for outcomes and actions. While I am all for being nice to my neighbors, it's probably likely that there are few specifically defined actions or outcomes. For innovation to succeed, we need not only the communications, but clearly defined outcomes and goals. The firms that demonstrate continuous success with innovation set very clear and consistently communicated goals - 20% of our revenue will come from products created in the last 3 years.

Third, are there resources committed to this initiative to help it succeed? Again, a platitude or an initiative without any funding or goals will be viewed very skeptically by the employee base, for good reason. This is a case of management jawboning - talking up a program without commitment or measurement. What investment is the organization willing to make in order to turn those innovation resolutions into real action that can be demonstrated and measured?

Is your management team writing a resolution about innovation, or does it have serious innovation goals that can be achieved, demonstrated and reported? Are they bound to the goal in a way that requires action, or will the innovation resolution fall by the wayside, like many new year's resolutions, at the first encounter with another strategy?
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 12:00 PM

4 Comments:

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