How To Make Managers Accountable for Innovation


The most important challenge to your organization is management innovation. Not employee engagement. That comes last.

Innovation is the most important challenge facing organization. Innovation is the only way of endearing customer loyalty. Employees become emboldened in cultures where things are happening. Where projects and new “discoveries” are welcomed rather than disdained. I can recall speaking to a small business owner  who responded when an employee raised her hand in a meeting, “You’re paid to work not think.”

I cringed. His people worked as though he was their overseer. While the company was profitable I could clearly see, as did the employees that the writing was on the wall. Any innovation was minute. A trickle that could be attained from the arrogance of management.

Mixed with the plywood and Brut scented carpet was an organization caught in the grip of malaise. “This is the way we have always done things around here,” was rule one.

I had to shake things up. I interviewed all three hundred employees. I insisted I be given complete access to ask questions without reprisals. He agreed to follow my suggestions.

The problem as you have surmised was clear. The management team had become entrenched in the owner’s leadership style.

We first innovated management.

It is rare to find a leader and manager who make innovation anything more than a buzzword. Few organizations train their people to be innovators.

Perhaps that is the problem. For management fails to see how they can reconceive their organization to challenge the deep seated industry orthodoxy  that blind employees to opportunity. As a manager you can teach people to be more sensitive to emerging trends and discontinuities in the economy and how to exploit them.

Five questions managers and employees should internalize:

  1. How will we create value?
  2. How will we capture value?
  3. How will we deliver value?
  4. What do you think?
  5. How can I help?

As part of management innovation is to listen to employees. This requires getting to know them. Have lunch with a customer, employees and a terminated employee. Find out how they perceive you and the organization with the gloves removed.

You need undiluted commentary on how the organizations is viewed from the frontlines.

No organization can succeed if it squanders untapped potential of it’s people. An effective manager can inspire people to innovate. Why? It changes the human spirit at work. We were born to create. To find ways to think and dream up ideas to make things better.  Read these ideas from Richard Straub and Julia Kirby. 

What new rules should managers be promoting? Clearly, investing in empowering innovations could be made more the norm, supported by revised approaches to everything from entry-level hiring to CEO compensation. We would also argue for a different managerial mindset toward productivity and the best use of technology – specifically to adopt what Peter Drucker called a human centered view of them. Cowen is right when he describes today’s technologies as displacers of human work, but that is not the only possibility. Managers could instead ask: How can we use these tools to add power to the arm (and the brain) of the worker? How could they enable people to take on challenges they couldn’t before?  The greatest problems of the world – such as ensuring abundant fresh water supplies, energy, health care, and schooling – will not be solved by placing human work in opposition to machines. They will require everyone’s best thinking combined with the staggering capabilities of digital technology.

Drucker’s early insistence that the corporation is a social institution, which can harness the capacity and potential of its people only when it respects them, becomes increasingly valid every year as more of the work of the global economy becomes knowledge work. It is undoubtedly why his ideas have held up so well. We heard an echo of them again in recent conversation with Marc Merrill, president and cofounder of Riot Games. The job of managers in his organization, he says, is to eliminate obstacles and provide tools to their teams – the people on whose knowledge and collaborative energy the company depends. […]

If you enjoyed this article please visit our website to see our clients. We’d be delighted to enable you to out wit. Out lead. and out compete.

Jim Woods, Leadership speaker, Human Resources Consultant, Business Coach

Jim Woods is a leadership development and training consultant deploying his unique abilities in character based training and strategy.

See a partial list of Jim’s clients. Hire Jim Woods to Speak  | Follow us: Facebook | Follow us: Twitter | Skype ID – jim.woods79   Click here to schedule an appointment.

Jim is president of InnoThink Group a human resources and leadership management consulting firm | Skype ID – jim.woods79   Click here to schedule an appointment.m. He has an absolute passion for people development and are constantly refining and adapting his programs in order to ensure that they have the maximum impact on those we serve.


Jim Woods is president of The Jim Woods Group. A management consulting firm. Go here to see his work He advises and speaks to organizations large and small on how to increase top line growth in times of uncertainty and complexity. Some of his speaking and consulting clients include: U.S. Army, MITRE Corporation, Pitney Bowes, Whirlpool, and 3M. See more at his website

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Innovation, Leadership, Management

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: