Executive Innovation Responsibility 

Day 87 Week 13 Q1  Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Let’s begin with what is an executive? An executive is a manager of managers. This is the shortest definition I know. Let’s also assume, in general, it is easier to say no than yes. This, however, is not the innovation way. When your word’s impact is multiplied, choosing them wisely is even more critical. 

If you want your organization to be good at innovation, then you must find a way to create and maintain an innovation culture. This is not a one-shot or two-shot thing. It is an identity thing. Organizations that do not value innovation do not innovate. It is simply too hard to do it. Even when an occasional firebrand pushes through all of the obstacles, who are mainly the people who tell him or her no, and manages to innovate, you will still not have an innovation culture. Also, eventually, that person will leave, leaving behind colleagues who will think twice or three times about pushing through those who are in their way only to end up leaving. 

That said, the prime executive innovation responsibility is creating an environment that supports innovation. You can not do that by saying no all of the time, even if it is easier and less risky than saying yes. 

This means you must expend considerable effort evaluating not only the ideas presented and proposed to you but also the presenters and how the teams they manage view them. This can be time-consuming and nerve-racking unless you actually do want people to innovate, in which case it is the most important part of your job, just ahead of locating the resources required by your teams to be able to do their jobs, including innovation. And, of course, innovation costs money to fund, so you may have to locate and secure even more resources than if you were not innovating. And that means you need to have a higher gross margin to generate a sustainable cash flow to support innovation. 

Hey, I did not say it was going to be easy. But if your organization understands that it has to innovate or die, which is the truth, then it ripples through everything and everyone. And you have to model good innovation management behavior if you want the managers you are managing to be good innovation managers. That is why executives are much more valuable than managers, and you have a much harder job. 

But if you are committed to embracing this executive innovation responsibility, you are also poised for a different growth path and, therefore, a different life. But not a low-risk one! You do have to be able to the chances stout getting fired, and you had better hope your board also embraces the notion of an innovation culture. 

This is why some companies’ innovation strategy is to simply acquire it because it is difficult to create, maintain and manage an innovation culture. But it also makes your life so much more interesting because these cultures attract brighter, more creative employees, and yes, they will tend to be more demanding as well, but if you want to be able to complete, who else would you want on your team?