Monday, February 16, 2009

The first step to innovation success

Do you want more innovation in your business? If yes, then here's the first, most powerful step you can take. Make someone accountable. Sounds like reasonable business wisdom, right? The challenge with innovation is that it is usually an abstract concept, difficult to measure or manage, and distributed throughout the organization, so no one person can reasonably be responsible for innovation success. This is yet another case of something everyone wants, but no one is responsible for. When you add in the fact that innovation is risky, and represents significant change to the status quo, then you can begin to realize how difficult it is to task one person with the job, and hold them accountable for innovation across the business.

So, while CEOs and executive teams continue to demand more innovation, they don't put the appropriate measurements and metrics in place, and they don't hold individuals accountable for innovation success. If it is difficult to assign one person for innovation success, but it is required to assign the task to somebody, who should get the task, the measurements and the requisite rewards or punishments. That's easy. Everybody.

If you want real innovation, then everyone who is (or wants to be) involved should be measured on it. This means from the drill press to the CEO lounge, everyone who has committed and expressed an interest is no longer an interested bystander but knows their work will be evaluated based on its innovation capacity. Now, I've got the attention of the organization.

Let's start at the top. Every CEO wants more growth, more differentiation. How can innovation provide those attributes? How can the work the CEO does impact innovation? Let's hold the CEO accountable. In each business unit or line of business, let's put several measures or metrics of innovation, especially tied to growth, differentiation or profits. If the heads of business units or product lines know that their evaluations and compensation are subject to success at innovation, guess what gets funded and staffed? Guess what gets their attention in a staff meeting. And if the division president or product line head wants innovation, he or she will find the staff and the resources to do it, and will hold those folks accountable as well.

It's difficult to hold one "CIO" accountable for innovation when he or she doesn't own or manage the assets or funds. However, we know that if no one is accountable the work won't get done. To create a real culture of innovation, measure everyone on their innovation efforts and inputs, throughout the entire organization. You'll have the commitment you need to succeed.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 2:13 PM

66 Comments:

OpenID jamestodhunter said...

Nicely said, Jeffrey. For some additional thoughts along this line, check out Innovation Accountability

2:18 PM  
Blogger http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com said...

The typical reaction to any such accountability will be... we don't need no stinking innovation. No one in their right mind wants to deal with additional risks- neither CEO nor anyone from the water cooler crowd. OTOH, if accountability was directly correlated to kudos and reward, evangelists would emerge and support innovation.

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Anonymous Fred Collopy said...

"Once you have some people whose job it is to innovate, everyone else stops innovating." Marissa Mayer (Google V.P.)

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Anonymous Earl Hensley said...

Great book on accountability = QBQ!

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Blogger Stone said...

Jeffrey, I enjoyed this post so much, I added you to our blogroll.

Thanks, please keep the thought leadership coming -- and next time you find yourself in Atlanta, consider coming by the studio to share your insights with our listeners.

P.S. I would echo what Earl Hensley says about John Miller's QBQ book.

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Blogger The Cool Geek said...

Agree with the post 100%. It has to become everyone's responsibility in a company to innovate and that requires a culture of innovation. Google is a great example for that.

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