Accountability One of the most important imperatives in Robert’s Rules of Innovation is ACCOUNTABILITY. Although the most difficult to create and maintain, every successful company culture needs accountability. Accountability is not an after-the-fact behavior. Holding others accountable begins by communicating very clear expectations and, perhaps, even getting written agreements. A sustainable Innovation program with accountability should be a goal of every Innovation Champion. Apply these ideas and learn more in the book, Robert’s Rules of Innovation.

Creating a Structured, Repeatable Process For Innovation

Established companies do not easily reinvent themselves.  History shows us that Innovation is often the strategy of startups – but not only is it important in getting to the top, innovation is necessary in order to stay on top. New talent, new techniques, and new products are all needed to stay abreast of the competition. In addition, having a champion within the organization is imperative. Innovation executives are often the facilitator of change, and the leaders responsible for the development of corporate innovation culture.

Recently McKinsey Quarterly published an article entitled, “The eight essentials of innovation,” by Marc de Jong, Nathan Marston, and Erik Roth. The article highlights a set of eight essential attributes from a survey of 300 companies that are present (either in part or in full) at every large company considered a high performer in product, process, or business-model innovation. The first four essentials help build the foundation for innovation. They are: Aspire, Choose, Discover, and Evolve. The next four ensure that innovation is not only successful, but repeatable as well. They are: Accelerate, Extend, Scale, and Mobilize.

The following is a quick summary of the first four attributes, with insight from the 10 imperatives laid out in “Robert’s Rules of Innovation”. You can read the full article published by McKinsey Here.

Whether it’s 8 essentials or 10 imperatives; having a structured and repeatable process from start to finish helps to ensure innovation is not only successful, it is repeatable and sustainable.


Aspire: According to De Jong, Marston, and Roth, “A far-reaching vision can be a compelling catalyst, provided it’s realistic enough to stimulate action today.”

Innovation and ideation is pointless without buy-in and support from top management, usually the CEO, who should acts as the chief innovation officer (CINO). As Robert Safian, editor of Fast Company says, “Inspiration Needs Execution”.  Define innovation so the entire organization is moving in the same direction. Quantify your goal, whether it’s a sales figure or number of new products you hope to achieve, and this will help justify the resources to be allocated.


Choose: “Since no one knows exactly where valuable innovations will emerge, and searching everywhere is impractical, executives must create some boundary conditions for the opportunity spaces they want to explore.”

While creativity and ideas can be found in numerous places and in numerous ways, how you manage them determines the viability of a product or process. Ideation should be harnessed by a process with dedicated resources, and with NPD and LTD teams working together.


Discover: “The insight-discovery process, which extends beyond a company’s boundaries to include insight-generating partnerships, is the lifeblood of innovation.”

Keep an eye on new technologies as they come along, but at the same time, you must be aware of your customer’s wants and needs. It isn’t enough to tell your customer what they want, sometimes you have to listen too.


Evolve: “Business-model innovations—which change the economics of the value chain, diversify profit streams, and/or modify delivery models—have always been a vital part of a strong innovation portfolio.”

According to Doblin’s “Ten Types of Innovation”, creating new products is only one way to innovate – and on its own, it provides the lowest return on investment and the least competitive advantage.


Accelerate: “There’s a balance to be maintained: bureaucracy must be held in check, yet the rush to market should not undermine the cross-functional collaboration, continuous learning cycles, and clear decision pathways that help enable innovation.” As the authors relay, Innovation must have the ability to move through an organization in a way that creates and maintains competitive advantage, without exposing a company to unnecessary risk.

Suffice to say that companies are not naturally inclined to try new approaches without clear evidence that those approaches are likely to work. However, without risk, there can be no innovation. An effective innovation leader should encourage well-reasoned creativity and risk taking, while also practicing tolerance for failure. Fail fast and fail cheap, the saying goes. In 2014 Amazon’s innovation efforts fell short; and sure, Fast Company might have put them in the penalty box, leaving them off the list of “the 50 most innovative companies in 2015″ – but Amazon’s place in the market is all but guarunteed. In fact, even with the kerfuffle, Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos are still a force to be reckoned with.


How would you answer the following questions in McKinsey’s Survey?



For more in-depth guidelines on how to promote innovation in your business, refer to Robert’s Rules of Innovation. Be sure to keep an eye out for the forthcoming Robert’s Rules of Innovation II, “The Art of Implementation.” 

Accountability Supports Sustainable Innovation

Without risk there can be no innovation, but what happens when success is finally achieved?  In order for innovation to be sustainable it must be driven by a structured management approach that strives for accountability, invention, and re-invention.

Back in December, Innovation Enterprise held a Chief Innovation Officer Summit in New York City. One of the best discussions was by Naomi Fried of Boston Children’s Hospital. Ideation is not innovation, she said. It’s true.


It is not enough to rely on each innovation team or group to effectively execute every idea that is put through the pipeline. Accountability is imperative.  Members of a corporate team need to feel responsible for their work – to meet deadlines and to deliver what was agreed upon.

Holding others accountable begins with clear communication of what is expected of them. To promote this point, put it in writing. By putting expectations to pen and paper, you ensure that everyone is on the same page and that your team is given the freedom to work towards their goals with confidence.



In order to promote accountability it is also important to have a dedicated team that can fully vet and execute those ideas. Ultimately the decision must me made as to whether or not the idea moves forward, and your team must be given both ownership and accountability to make that call. Set clear action items, and expect follow through. Engage leadership in the process.

As Ed Hoffman of NASA put it, “if the leadership is not engaged, there is no point”.  Make sure that your leaders are present and accessible. Meet regularly to identify potential obstacles and opportunities before they become larger issues.

Learn more about Accountability and Innovation by watching this short video:

You can learn more about the above points, by reading Robert’s Rules of Innovation. Robert Brands is the founder of and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation”: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman, published by Wiley.


Let’s Bring Back Accountability

From customers’ and suppliers’ viewpoint, Company X is fast growing, exciting, and high-energy. Inside, though, it’s a tornado. Fighting fires, arguing over who committed to what, why it didn’t happen, and noticing things that fell through the cracks in just enough time is normal.

How can this happen when they have weekly departmental meetings, keep track of action items, and post projects and timelines everywhere? Easily! There is no accountability. They don’t hold each other accountable for commitments. They’ve seen what happens when you fail, and it isn’t pretty, which undermines individual commitment. Requesters frequently change their minds, reprioritize, or create new, more urgent projects without ever really closing the loop on the old ones.

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Is Your Team Held Accountable?

Before the start of any project, do you ask yourself, “Are my team members held accountable? Do they feel a personal responsibility to deliver the goods?” If you haven’t made the steps to communicate that message yet, it is essential to lay down that foundation in the beginning. For that reason, Accountability is the most important of the ten imperatives in Robert’s Rules of Innovation. In his book, Robert Brands describes the ten factors that must be achieved in order to create and sustain Innovation in business – and it all starts with Accountability.

Accountability is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. After all, as the leader of a New Product Development team in any organization, how do you expect your team members to deliver satisfactory results within the desired timeframe? Make it clear from the beginning exactly what is expected of each team member and that they are held accountable for their work. Let your team know that, as members of the organization and members of the NPD team, it is their responsibility to contribute, to pull their own weight and to hold firm to deadlines. Otherwise, deadlines can slip with no real improvements made, and the end result may lead to finger pointing for who’s responsible. Don’t let that happen to your NPD process. Continue reading “Is Your Team Held Accountable?” »

Accountability: The Foundation of Sustainable Innovation

In Robert’s Rules of Innovation: a 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, author and Innovation Speaker Robert Brands shares his 10 imperatives to nourish Innovation – the lifeblood of any company. Of Robert’s 10 imperatives, one of the most important and the most difficult to achieve is Accountability.
Continue reading “Accountability: The Foundation of Sustainable Innovation” »

Accountability: The Rudder of Innovation in a Changing Business Environment

As companies and organizations pursue innovation to transform themselves from what they currently are or offer, to what they want to become or provide the marketplace, accountability is the rudder that steers pursuits and prevents a wandering, directionless ship.

Continue reading “Accountability: The Rudder of Innovation in a Changing Business Environment” »