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":
1. Leaders creating a climate for innovation 27%
2. Creating an organizational structure that facilitates Innovation 24%
3. Focusing Innovation in the right places 23%
4. Managing the tension between creativity and Commercialization 16%
5. Developing an Innovation Strategy 8%
(Source: O Wyman's Econ Intel Unit Survey)
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 www.nceo.org/Innovations-Employee-Ownership-Award/id/17/