Ownership Robert’s Rules of Innovation imperative OWNERSHIP. Innovation needs ownership – a champion within the organization. The champion must convince others to take calculated risks and at times work outside of one’s comfort zone. The champion must take responsibility for project tasks, decisions, and deliverables need to be clearly understood and communicated. For more on ownership in the Innovation process, read the book, Robert’s Rules of Innovation to discover more.

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.” 

“Inciting Discovery, Inspiring Change” #CINONY

Earlier this month, Innovation Enterprise held a Chief Innovation Officer Summit in New York City. The Summit brings together innovation leaders from a range of industries to “incite discovery, inspire change & facilitate a cross-pollination of ideas”. Panelists from some of the most innovative companies such as Pfizer, Disney, Sony, and NASA discussed innovation best practices, innovation metrics, and breakthrough strategies.

One topic discussed at the summit was The Premature Extinction of the Chief #Innovation Officer. The chief Innovation officer or CINO is the person who is primarily responsible for managing the process of innovation.

Innovation executives are often the facilitator of change, and the leaders responsible for the development of corporate innovation culture.

Although I am a firm believer that the CEO must take the role of Chief Innovation Officer, in large corporations, it pays to have a CINO that works and drives innovation on a daily basis. Due to the fact that innovation is not always immediately tangible, it is important to continually re-evaluate the role and adapt to change in order to stay relevant.

Every successful business leader knows that innovation in business is essential, but the best way to engineer and sustain it is not always clear.

During the summit Luis Solis, President of Imaginatik highlighted four essential steps/measures to fortify the CINO position. These steps not only affirm the 10 imperatives of innovation as outlined in Robert’s rules of Innovation, but strengthen my resolve that successful innovation requires many different elements to cross the finish line ahead of your competition.

According to Mr. Solis, the best way to ensure that the role of the CINO does not follow that of the CKO is by doing the following:

  • Make Innovation Imperative: Language is crucial. Innovation cannot be an option, it must be a priority.
  • Show the Impact of Innovation: Visible Indicators of success need not only be monetary, your return on innovation can be changes in speed to market, patents, shortened cycles, and other measures. Remember that what gets measured gets done. Look for Leading and Lagging indications of Innovations as written about before.
  • Investment in people and time:  Educate your CFO about investing in innovation, so that you can invest in the people and time needed to make innovation happen. Create a culture around innovation. Educate and inspire.
  • Secure Institutional Trust: Stakeholders in your business must understand that innovation is a shared win. Your corporate culture must also take into account that without risk, there can be no innovation. Use Failure as a Learning opportunity.

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


Happy Labor Day: Ownership is Risk Taking

goldfish jumping out of the water


Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.


For some, Labor Day signifies the end to sunny summer days. For others, it constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.


As Development Dimensions International points out in their trend research: “Our most talked-about and revered citizens and organizations are known for their ability to create new solutions that are valuable to the marketplace and elevate their standings in the business world. Across all industries and disciplines, the ability to innovate is universally admired.”

How do people acquire and foster high levels of innovation in science, business, and sports?

While everyone is looking for the means to create the “next big thing”, the latest discussions focus on creating the “next big thing” on an ongoing basis. Put another way, making innovation a repeatable and sustainable process.

According to a piece by the New York Times, raw talent and intelligence are a requirement for aspiring super achievers. On the other side of the coin, Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book Outliers, champion’s circumstance and hard work over raw ability. The debate of nature vs. nurture rages on with the single driving idea that Innovation rarely occurs by accident, but instead with work, and calculated risk-taking. Organizations need innovation to not only survive, but to thrive. Sustainable Innovation cannot be created with processes and systems alone. 

One of the key imperatives of Roberts Rules of Innovation is No Risk… No Innovation. To increase initiative and innovation, you have to encourage and even embrace failure. Another key imperative is Ownership. Most would agree that innovation is everyone’s responsibility, but employees can’t innovate unless their leaders empower them to do so. Innovation needs ownership – a champion within the organization. The champion must convince others to take calculated risks and at times work outside of one’s comfort zone. By combining both imperatives it does not take long to see that ownership and risk taking go hand in hand.


Ownership is risk taking.


In a recent interview by Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Francisco D’Souza, C.E.O. of the information technology company Cognizant has the following to say about risk taking and comfort zones:

“We started Cognizant in 1994, and there was a period early on when I personally knew everyone in the company. Now we have 160,000 employees, and there were several personal and rapid transitions over that time.

The lesson I learned is that when you have to evolve that quickly as a person, you need to be aware of two things. One is personal blind spots and the other is personal comfort zones. Those two things can be real gotchas.

It’s very hard to see your blind spots, by definition, and it’s very easy to fall into comfort zones, because people like patterns and a sense of familiarity. I’ve tried consciously to say, “What are the tools I can use to identify these blind spots and push through comfort zones?” And I always tell myself that if I wake up in the morning and feel comfortable, I’m probably not pushing myself hard enough.”

Companies that remain in their comfort zones for too long sometimes discover that they’ve made a significant mistake. According to the Boston Consulting Group, a culture of risk aversion is the number one barrier to innovation. To avoid swinging between excessive caution and over-exuberance, set a disciplined target for your desired investment outcomes.


Robert’s Rules of Innovation gives five simple steps for encouraging initiative and Innovation. To get you started here are some tips:

1.   Profiles in Risk: Clearly communicate the risk profile you are asking your people to adopt and state why it is important to the organization’s success.

2.   Failure Management: Never allow an unsuccessful risk to hamper a team member’s opportunities and advancement.

3.   Key Learning Process: Establish a formalized, non-accusatory process for harvesting key learning’s from unsuccessful risks.  Distribute these lessons-learned.


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


What drives Innovation and who owns it?

Ownership is one of the key imperatives of Robert’s Rules of Innovation. Most would agree that innovation is everyone’s responsibility, but employees can’t innovate unless their leaders empower them to do so. Innovation needs a champion within the organization to push them to take calculated risks, and to step outside their own comfort zone. Without ownership, positive results are almost impossible to achieve.

To find out if you are on track in your companies’ innovation ownership; ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you have champions that own projects?
  2. Is there an ownership culture in your company?
  3. Do NPD teams have champions, and at what level of the organization?
  4. Is it clear where the “go to” resource is for innovation?
  5. Is there a central and unified picture of your innovation efforts?

In a recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit for Oliver Wyman (in which 300 senior executives across 17 different industries were interviewed) the greatest challenge in creating a culture of innovation and delivering business results is “leaders creating a climate for innovation”.

The ideal innovation team is knowledgeable, resourceful, and motivated to drive ideation and product development. Every participant along the innovation process’s chain must embrace accountability as a champion of the idea, the development process, the success, and alternatively it’s failure (without risk, there would be no reward). However, it is the team leader/Chief Innovation Officer’s job to marshal forces, and to transform team members into stakeholders. In short, to create a climate for innovation, and encourage a spirit of ownership .

To get some real world insight, on April 26th of this year the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) announced the winners of its 2012 Innovations in Employee Ownership Award, sponsored by TEOCO.

According to their website: “The Innovations in Employee Ownership Award (IEO) seeks to recognize the innovative practices that result from having an engaged workforce of employee-owners, as well as ideas that tie stock to improved company culture or performance.”

While the award recognizes companies in which employees hold company stock options, even companies without such plans can benefit from creating a culture which puts the employee front and center by giving team members ownership in the success of the idea or project.

IEO award winner Lloyd Skinner of Environmental Science Associates explains, “The challenge was how best to integrate the overall firm vision into our every day. We recognized the need to ensure widespread ownership of the vision, values and strategies. It had to be a living process and document- one that everyone could embrace.” To accomplish that, the NCEO notes, the company conducted a business-wide survey, used the feedback to develop the company’s strategic plan, and continued to engage employees through meetings and communication.

Another winner, n-Link, created an animated film that described their innovation and commitment to their ownership culture: “The key to n-Link’s success is our company culture symbolized by our logo, an upside-down organizational chart. Our employee owners think, lead, support, and act like owners to innovate and increase cost saving for our customers.”*

In creating a culture of ownership, maintaining regular organized team meetings with clearly defined objectives is crucial. Key points to remember:

  • Keep a regular date, time, and duration
  • Clearly state meeting objectives in a written, pre-distribution agenda.
  • Include cross-functional teams: marketing, sourcing, purchasing, sales, etc.
  • Review NDP priority levels (high/medium/low).

To learn more about the above ownership points, and for more real-world inspiration read Robert’s Rules of Innovation. Robert Brands is the founder of InnovationCoach.com and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation”: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman, published by Wiley.

*Descriptions and accounts from IEOA awards taken from http://www.nceo.org/Innovations-Employee-Ownership-Award/id/17/


Innovation Myths Debunked

true-or-falseInnovation is key to a company’s survival, regardless of the size or type of organization. But there are many myths and common misconceptions when it comes to how innovation is achieved. Many people think innovation is all about generating ideas, or ideation. While it’s true that every innovation must start with an idea, it is actually the delivery and execution of processes that lead to sustained Innovation. In fact, when it comes to achieving a culture of innovation, execution may be the biggest challenge.

This Forbes articles offers some food for thought regarding other common myths about innovation:

1. A great leader never fails at innovation. This is certainly a myth because without risk, there can be no innovation and that means failures will inevitably come along the way. Innovation is too much for one leader to tackle alone, so in turn leaders should practice a tolerance for failure and an enthusiasm for risk taking throughout the organization. Make failure a learning experience!

2. Real innovation happens bottoms-up. Innovation efforts require a formal commitment of time and resources. Innovation needs ownership – a champion within the organization – to convince others to step up to the plate. Ideally, the innovation champion should be an officer or executive/management member with respect, authority and the time and passion to drive the project forward.

3. Initiating innovation requires wholesale organizational change. Actually, innovation only requires targeted change and it can be effective to use dedicated teams to take on the task. With the proper training and coaching, designated team members can structure innovative efforts.

Now that we’ve debunked some innovation myths, you may have some questions surrounding how to get started.

  • How do you set the policy?
  • How do you build a quality team and an environment that fosters teamwork?
  • How can you make organizational changes needed to facilitate your efforts?

The ten imperatives in Robert’s Rules of Innovation serve as a guide for starting, nurturing and profiting from a culture of sustained innovation in the workplace. Robert’s Rules of Innovation gives easy-to-implement and immediately useful ideas for setting and reaching goals like bringing “at least one new product per year to market.”

Creativity Does Not Equal Innovation

creativity_and_innovationInnovation and Creativity are words that are at times used interchangeably in the research and development process, but they have two distinct meanings. While creativity is about coming up with the big idea, innovation is about executing the idea and making it a business success. Do not confuse the two. An organization can certainly have creativity without the right steps to implement innovation.

Innovation implementation calls for a robust, disciplined strategy. It can not be a one-time process, but must occur over and over again to form a steady flow of innovation that sustains long-term profitability. The only way to achieve that is by bringing focus, a road map, screening criteria, and checkpoints to the new product development (NPD) process.

Many innovation leaders are concerned that adding structure will dampen creativity, but in my experience, structure can actually free the creative spirit. By applying structure that adapts to the needs, size, and culture of an organization, a leader can draw both creativity and innovation out of its team members. Here are some tips for attaining that winning combination.

* Hold ideation sessions with a group of diverse and highly charged creative people in your organization – and be sure to keep any restraints off. Do not ignore or override any input from the team. Practical, real world filters can always be added later on, but you want to capitalize on all ideas early in the process.

* Keep track of meeting decisions and next steps. Delegate responsibility and encourage ownership.

* Use your motivational skills by creating clear and unwavering deadline pressure, while reinforcing and praising their incremental progress. Apply “Trust with verification”

* Give team members some incentive for their contributions and achievements. This does not necessarily have to be money – often recognition is a key driver for creative players in your organization; make them the initiative Champion, offer recognition among peers.

* Create an environment where mistakes are tolerated and free of punitive measures. Remember, the creative process is a ratio, so more attempts at success naturally equate to more failures along the way. Managing failure as a learning experience lets your creatives feel safe and empowered to do their best work.

* Provide regular feedback and keep the lines of communication open throughout the NPD process.

Last but not least consider some defined “Free Time” with unlimited creativity but accountability to report the outcome aligned with the company Vision, Mission and Strategy. For more tips on fostering innovation and creativity, see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival.” The ten imperatives are a useful guide for successfully starting, nurturing, and profiting from a culture of sustained innovation in the workplace.

Ownership: Are You Taking Responsibility?

In order to achieve Innovation, a champion within an organization must take Ownership – one of Robert’s Rules of Innovation imperatives.  The champion, whether an officer or executive manager within the company, has the responsibility of convincing others to work outside their comfort zone, even if they are resistant to change.
Continue reading “Ownership: Are You Taking Responsibility?” »

Innovation Governance: Adding Guidance and Essential Support

Companies and organizations turn to governing boards for so many critical elements these days.

Boards of Directors guide overall strategy and direction. Appointed Audit Committees pore over corporate financials and performance. HR / Compensation Committees ensure the organization’s on track with hiring and benefits that keep it competitive. Each has been formed to inform, advice and support the CEO in his or her the ethical- and policy-backed pursuit of protecting shareholder / stakeholder interests.

Yet in the Age of Sarbanes Oxley-like governance across the organization, why doesn’t innovation have such oversight? Continue reading “Innovation Governance: Adding Guidance and Essential Support” »

‘Is This Yours?’ In The Innovation Process, The Answer Defines Ownership

“Excuse me, is this yours?”

If someone asked members of your Innovation Team about “ownership” of a current initiative, would individuals reply, “Yes”?

Or would the people involved point to the team leader, the CEO or someone else – someone other than themselves? Would they reply, “No, that’s his”? Continue reading “‘Is This Yours?’ In The Innovation Process, The Answer Defines Ownership” »