Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Live from FEI 2014: Marla Hetzel and Jennifer Draklellis on Integrating Accountability into an Innovation Culture

One of the biggest challenges that companies face, both in general and in the innovation process, is developing accountability. Through their story about how leaders can learn to lead, Marla Hetzel and Jennifer Draklellis provided a very clear and helpful list of accountability metrics from Chris Trimble and Vijay Govindarajan that companies can use throughout their innovation endeavors:

*Serious planning
*Improving predictions
*Facing facts
*Evidence of learning
*Critical unknowns clear
*Clear hypothesis
*Team understanding
*Reacting fast
*Low spending and high learning

One of the biggest challenges to bringing in new accountability measures, however, is that people are too used to objective metrics like financial and time-based measures. Doing an historical analysis, however, Hetzel and Draklellis discovered that using these metrics didn't work, because people were just gaming the system to make the numbers by doing things like developing ideas without executing.

The team used several strategies to get around these difficulties. The first is that they built this new language about accountability into job performance objectives, so that people could understand that innovation is part of their job and be evaluated on whether they are engaging in innovating behaviors. Second, they turned the accountability terminology into shared language by putting it in all of the documentation and explicitly making use of the language in meetings. Third, and most importantly, they used these accountability terms to develop questions that can be asked in meetings, reviews, and assessments, which helped make the language pervasive and accessible.

While it is always hard to shift the culture of a company, there are certainly ways to evolve through the development of shared language that is made pervasive and accessible, which is what Hetzel and Draklellis showed as an eminently feasible possibility for any growing company.


Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

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