• 02.20.09

Innovation Accountability


Innovate on Purpose is one the innovation blogs I follow on a regular basis.  Yesterday, Jeffrey Phillips posted a nice article titled The first step to innovation success.” In it, he discusses the need to have people accountable for innovation.  Bang on, Jeffrey!  You get the behaviors you measure and reward.

So, how can you build such accountability into your organization?  In short, make sure ultimate responsibility is properly located in the organization, and make sure that expectations and goals are concrete and clearly understood.

On the first point, let’s first understand that while you want innovation to happen at all levels in the organization, and every person must take ownership of their role in the innovation mission, innovation will not be a sustainable, value driving part of your organization unless the ultimate accountability is at the top, the CEO.  In the words of A. G. Lafley, “The CEO must be the Chief Innovation Officer.”

This doesn’t mean that the CEO is going to spend his days ideating to drive new product capabilities.  This is not the role of the Chief Innovation Officer.  The Chief Innovation Officer’s role is to ensure that innovation is developed as a core competency of the enterprise, that it is properly funded, that it has continuous visibility, and that it delivers results.  The CEO is in the unique position of being able to fulfill this role.  The CEO sets the corporate agenda, defines the rules of engagement, and has ultimate ownership of all corporate resources.  This makes the CEO the ultimate facilitator of innovation.  Without the CEO as the most ardent innovation advocate, building a culture of sustainable innovation will always be an uphill battle.

Is your CEO the Chief Innovation Officer?  If not, this is a problem that must be addressed post haste.

The other aspect of organizational innovation accountability is setting expectations and goals.  There are many ways to look at this, but I suggest that the direct approach is best.  Use a management by objectives approach to push innovation accountability down through the organization.

Personally, I am a big fan of the Balanced Scorecard approach.  Integrate innovation into the top level objectives.  Define the impact of innovation from the four key perspectives.  How do you want innovation to impact the financial performance of your organization?  How should your customers feel the benefit of innovation?  How do your internal processes need to reflect your innovation goals?  How will innovation be a platform for organization and employee learning and growth?  Once you have defined the top level innovation goals, push them down through each successive level in the goals hierarchy.  Make sure that the objectives are clear, concrete, and measurable.  In this way, every person in the enterprise will have line-of-sight accountability for their role and clearly understand the impact their contribution has on the success of the team.


Follow these two steps and you will see innovation flourish in your organization and deliver huge returns.