‘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”?

I spoke recently with a CEO of a consumer products company who expressed disappointment that an idea for an exciting new wrinkle in sunglasses technology had faltered. In doing so, others had beaten the company to market.

Why did this happen? The “Leader” admitted he’d failed to sell the idea. “Others just didn’t get it,” he said. “Their hearts weren’t in it. They were moving forward out of duty, not out of passion. And we dropped the ball.”

In the world of Innovation, it’s the Chief Innovation Officer’s job to marshal forces, to empower, to inspire, and to transform team members into stakeholders of the process or project. In short, it’s to create and encourage a spirit of Ownership.

As one of the 10 key Innovation Imperatives “Ownership” ranks up there in importance (http://www.robertsrulesofinnovation.com/category/blogs ) with Ideation, Risk, Results, Idea Management and all the others.

Put as a business equation, Ownership Equals Accountability Equals the Foundation of Innovation. Without accountability, ideas stall. Progress dies on the vine of best intentions. Any real chance at success is lost.

Without ownership, positive results are almost impossible to achieve. A team member cannot point to the Chief Innovation Officer or team leader as a project’s or initiative’s owner. Every participant along the innovation process’s chain must embrace accountability as a champion of the idea, the development process, the success – and the failure – that may come in tow.

To be sure, Champions at the highest level – like a CIO – have the authority and (and should have the passion) to garner organizational respect needed to push Innovation from the idea stage to development and ultimately to fruition. Champions build consensus, convince others to take calculated risks and to work outside their comfort zone.

But Ownership must extend beyond one single Champion. To be sure, a champion at the highest level ultimately drives projects forward. But “ownership” must be claimed by all involved, encouraged by the senior project manager, but wholeheartedly embraced across the organization.

How will you know a project has been welcomed into the hearts of its team? Ask one question:

“Excuse me, is this yours?”

The response will give you your answer.

By Robert Brands with Jeff Zbar

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 and which will be published in March by Wiley (www.robertsrulesofinnovation.com).