A committed (Ring)leader implicitly asks the same question in every meeting: “How does this help us get to our vision?” That’s what happens after you make a sincere declaration—if you are serious.
When it comes to accountability, the question to ask is this: Who is the one person in charge of turning the big idea into reality? Our experience is that if you don’t have a single individual who is accountable, your declaration is in trouble. Read: It will likely fail. If one person is not accountable, then nobody is accountable.
Your chief innovation officer, or whoever is accountable, must institutionalize the processes, and the behaviors that lead to a culture of rigor, risk and results. Innovation can give you an amazing competitive advantage, but without accountability, it becomes an expensive and demoralizing exercise.
Track it. Finally, if you want to see progress, you need to employ Peter Drucker’s famous phrase: “What gets measured gets done.” So if you are serious, here are some items to measure and evaluate:
• How many people are dedicated to the initiative?
• How much training is being done?
• Does leadership sponsor key initiatives?
• Are incentives aligned to drive key initiatives?
• Is there a formal process in your organization?
• Does your process track—and allow for—failures as well as successes?
• How much time does an initiative take from idea to profit?
• What does your innovation portfolio look like?
• How much does each initiative drive ROI (return on innovation) portfolio management (revenue, margin, time in market)?
• Which metrics will keep you focused and make your declaration a reality?
THE FRUIT OF YOUR DECLARATION
President Kennedy made a declaration and NASA helped see it through, and there were countless benefits as a result. We’re sure you’ve heard of Tang and maybe even Tempur-Pedic®, but everything from better water purification systems to improvement in the flight of golf balls can be traced to work initially done in the space program.
And admire them or not (I choose to admire them), both Bill Gates and Sam Walton made the lives of hundreds of millions of people better. For your country, and your company, you need to create an innovation program that is both daring and tracked closely, otherwise you will just join the long list of people—many presidents among them—who made sweeping announcements that were doomed to be forgotten because nothing was done to ensure they happened.
Mr. President, may we suggest a “Director of Homeland Innovation?” Please?