Urgency and Accountability

Seth Godin's article from a couple weeks back on urgency and accountability should be required reading for anybody working to champion innovation within an organization. (Seriously, it's short, go read it.)

As we work to ship new products and services, the effects of fear underpin our most common challenges. There are many different fears that can gnaw at us, but the end results are usually the same: we avoid accountability and we stall. Our sense of urgency is eroded until we've buried ourselves in meetings and nothing gets done.

Thus, we see the two symptoms of the organization unable to move forward with alacrity, the two warning signs of the person in the grip of the resistance. "I can take my time, and if I'm lucky, I can get you to wonder who to blame."
Seth Godin

Instead, we can make the decision to take responsibility and relentlessly push for forward motion. We acknowledge the fear but we don't let it stop us. We take ownership of our work and refuse to settle for the plodding pace of status quo.

Having worked in both very large and very small firms, it's been surprising to see these same challenges derail innovation efforts at both. The smaller places can have it easier to get past those challenges but it still boils down to this matter of deliberate choice.

In my world, this has two practical applications: As an individual, I can make this decision to push harder personally. And as a leader, I can encourage the teams I work with to use our many meetings to generate clear actions, ownership, and a sense of urgency. Together we can build the habits and momentum necessary to ship, and ultimately enjoy the rewards of building a culture of innovation.