As important as creativity and idea creation are, they require real aspiration to get same to fruition.  A far-reaching vision can be a compelling catalyst, provided it’s realistic enough to stimulate action today.

But in a corporate setting, as many CEOs have discovered, even the most inspiring words often are insufficient, no matter how many times they are repeated. It helps to combine high-level aspirations with estimates of the value that innovation should generate to meet financial-growth objectives. Quantifying an “innovation target for growth,” and making it an explicit part of future strategic plans, helps solidify the importance of and accountability for innovation. The target itself must be large enough to force managers to include innovation investments in their business plans. If they can make their numbers using other, less risky tactics, our experience suggests that they (quite rationally) will.

Establishing a quantitative innovation aspiration is not enough, however. The target value needs to be apportioned to relevant business “owners” and cascaded down to their organizations in the form of performance targets and timelines. Anything less risks encouraging inaction or the belief that innovation is someone else’s job.