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« Remind you of anything? Simple typography for non-professionals | Main | Avoiding fear by indulging in our fear of fear »

Urgency and accountability are two sides of the innovation coin

As organizations and individuals succeed, it gets more difficult to innovate. There are issues of coordination, sure, but mostly it's about fear. The fear of failing is greater, because it seems as though you've got more to lose.

So urgency disappears first. Why ship it today if you can ship it next week instead? There are a myriad of excuses, but ultimately it comes down to this: if every innovation is likely to fail, or at the very least, be criticized, why be in such a hurry? Go to some more meetings, socialize it, polish it and then, one day, you can ship it.

Part of the loss of urgency comes from a desire to avoid accountability. Many meetings are events in which an organization sits in a room until someone finally says, "okay, I'll take responsibility for this." If you're willing to own it, do you actually need a meeting, or can you just email a question or two to the people you need information from?

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."

You don't need more time, you just need to decide.

Read the history of the original Mac and you'll be amazed at just how fast it got done. Willie Nelson wrote three hit songs in one day. To save the first brand I was responsible for, I redesigned five products in less than a day. It takes a team of six at Lays potato chips a year to do one.

The urgent dynamic is to ask for signoffs and to push forward, relentlessly. The accountable mantra is, "I've got this." You can feel this happening when you're around it. It's a special sort of teamwork, a confident desperation... not the desperation of hopelessness, but the desperate effort that comes from being hopeful.

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