"A Call to Innovation"
By Joyce Wycoff
"When in the course
of human events ...."
Those first words of the Declaration of Independence launched a revolution
that led to a new form of government. This bold document severed ties with
the past, outlined a profound mind shift towards individual rights to "life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and proclaimed the vision for
a new nation.
In the past many years, the business world has experimented with dozens
of programs for improving performance. Most were helpful, many were brilliant
but all seemed to fall far short of expectations. And now, in a time when
the challenges of rapid growth and global competition have become more critical
than ever, people have grown weary of programs, distrustful of slogans and
manipulation, yet are genuinely anxious to find meaningful answers and new,
more effective ways of working together.
The time is ripe for revolution. In too many organizations, management without
representation has become a way of life--a frustrating, mind-numbing insanity,
graphically, but all too accurately, reflected in daily Dilbert cartoons.
Theres a broad recognition that somethings wrong and change
is necessary but a growing resistance to trying another quick-fix, fad program.
Its time for a broad-based mindshift and a new vision for organizations
based on effective, sustainable principles. In todays world of finite
resources, rapid change and global competition, there is only one unlimited
resource ... Innovation. As Theodore Levitt of the Harvard Business Review
stated, "Innovation is the vital spark of all man-made change, improvement
and progress." Too often, however, this resource is being irretrievably
squandered, threatening the financial viability of our organizations as
well as the health and well-being of employees, customers, suppliers and
While many performance improvement programs have talked about innovation
and the word is showing up increasingly in advertisements and mission statements,
there seems to be little genuine understanding of how to build an innovation
organization. We believe that the shift to innovation organizations will
not come through programs, regardless of how well thought out they are.
It will come by severing ties with the past. It will come through a dramatic
shift in how we think about work and life in organizations. And, it will
come because we have a new vision of working together in organizations.
What we need is a way to proclaim this new vision and mindshift; we need
a Declaration of Innovation.
This document would outline the principles of an Innovation Organization
as well as the rights and duties of employees, customers, suppliers, stockholders
and other stakeholders of the organization. It would not be a program; it
would be a declaration of intent--intent to think and act in a new way.
It would be a document that could be signed by anyone, and everyone, within
an organization, from CEO to summer intern.
In an attempt to begin the innovation revolution, we propose the following
draft Declaration of Innovation. We encourage your organization to use it
as a starting place, to adapt it to your particular circumstances, and to
use it as a way to begin serious conversations about how to create an Innovation
Declaration of Innovation
We declare ourselves committed to the Principles of Innovation and to securing
the Rights and Duties of the Members of the Innovation Organization -- employees,
customers, suppliers, stockholders and other stakeholders. We further understand
that being an Innovation Organization requires a commitment to the ethical
stewardship of our community, nation and planet.
Principles of Innovation:
Rights and Duties of Members of the Innovation Organization:
- Innovation requires a vision -- innovation requires change,
risk and upheaval. Innovation is not done for innovations sake;
there must be a driving motivator compelling the organization to develop
the systems, resources and culture needed to support innovation. In
todays environment, the innovation driver is the need to survive
in a world of rapid change.
- Innovation is customer-driven and bottomline focused -- the
purpose of innovation is to find better ways to delight customer and
create a financially viable organization.
- Innovation requires a foundation of ethics -- only in an environment
of mutual trust and respect, not only within the organization but also
within the surrounding community and global environment, can an organization
develop a truly innovative approach to problems and opportunities.
- Innovation requires innovative thinking -- innovative thinking
is a skill needed by every member of the organization. It is the ability
to constantly look for new possibilities, generate ideas, think together
productively, make sound decisions and gain the commitment needed for
rapid and effective implementation.
- Innovation begins with a clean slate -- prior assumptions
and the way things have always been done are set aside in order to look
at possibilities with a fresh perspective.
- Innovation looks at the whole system -- creating solutions
in one area that cause problems in another is not innovation; its
- Innovation requires a diverse, information- and interaction-rich
environment -- people with different perspectives, working together
toward a common objective, with accurate, up-to-date information and
the proper tools are the only source of innovation.
- Innovation requires a risk-tolerant environment -- the creation
of anything new involves risk and the possibility of failure. An innovative
environment honors nice tries that didnt work (AKA failures) as
learning experiences and part of the innovation process.
- Innovation involves and rewards every member of the organization
-- there are no longer "thinkers" and "doers," "owners"
and "workers." Innovation requires the very best thinking
and doing from everyone and treats everyone as an "owner"
equitably sharing the rewards generated by those best efforts.
- Innovation requires a continuous scan of future trends --
just as the weather in Havana may be changed by the beat of a butterfly
wing in Chile, the destiny of an organization may be determined by the
efforts of an unknown team working in a basement laboratory of a small
- Innovation requires a learning orientation -- only by creating
an environment where every member of the organization is continuously
learning more about its products, services, processes, customers, technologies,
industry and environment can an organization successfully innovate year
- Innovation always involves resistance -- innovation requires
change, change requires moving away from the comfort of the status quo.
Resistance is normal and should not be used as an excuse not to innovate.
In order to achieve the benefits inherent in an Innovation Organization,
every member must be committed to the Principles of Innovation and be willing
to protect and fulfill the rights and duties outlined below. Innovation
will never be a static state, which, once achieved, can be placed on a shelf
and forgotten. It requires constant vigilance and ever renewed commitment.
Rights: to expect increasing value through continuous innovation
in products and services. Customer needs and wants will be the driver
of the organizations innovation efforts.
Duties: to provide feedback on products and services. The flow
of performance information is vital to continuous innovation.
Rights: to work in an innovative environment, defined as a place
- every employee understands, and is aligned with, the vision, mission
and goals of the organization.
- every employee has opportunities to learn and grow in his or her
ability to contribute to the vision, mission and goals of the organization.
- mutual trust and respect is based on a foundation of ethical action,
open communication and equitable sharing of rewards and risks.
- every employees ideas and contributions are expected and
- information flows freely and interaction among various groups,
functions, departments, teams, and business units is encouraged and
supported by information systems, communication tools and physical
- experimentation and trying new ways of doing things are expected
and smart failures are valued as learning experiences.
- to continuously upgrade his or her skills, information and understanding
of his role in the organization and of the organizations vision,
mission, goals, customers, technology, industry and environment.
- to continuously look for new ways to improve products, services
and processes as well as new opportunities for fulfilling the organizations
vision, mission and goals.
- to share information and ideas with co-workers as well as members
of other functions, departments or business units.
- to actively seek performance feedback in order to continuously
improve skills and understanding.
- to safeguard the organizations assets, proprietary information
- to act in an ethical manner toward all other employees, customers,
suppliers, stockholders, community neighbors and other stakeholders.
Rights: to ethical treatment as a valued contributor to the organizations
Duties: to create an Innovation Organization that will act ethically
in alignment with its customers, providing new ideas and information as
well as ever-improving products, services and processes while protecting
the customers assets, proprietary information and reputation.
Rights: to a reasonable long-term return on investment, which can
only be assured by a continuous commitment to and implementation of innovation.
Duties: to act ethically in the best interest of the organizations
long-term financial viability.
Rights: to expect all organizations within the community to act as
stewards of the community, protecting its peoples, resources and spirit.
Duties: to create a safe, healthy environment, an effective education
system, and an infrastructure that supports ethical economic activity.
The last 14 words of the Declaration of Independence are as stirring as
the first: "...we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes
and our sacred honor." Making a significant commitment to the future
we intend to create is a vital first step in achieving that future. We invite
you and your organization to create and sign your own Declaration of Innovation.
Joyce Wycoff is the Co-founder of the InnovationNetwork and can be reached
© InnovationNetwork, 2001