Innovation Manager

Part
01
of six
Part
01

Innovation Manager - Profile

An innovation manager focuses on the development of new products, services or processes. A successful innovation manager must have required education, experience, competencies/skills, and a particular set of individual attributes.

Education

  • Innovation managers need a bachelor's degree in marketing, business, engineering, arts, graphic designs or communications or in any other similar field.
  • Some employers prefer a master's degree or higher for innovation managers.
  • Innovation managers in medium enterprises and startups should have a bachelor’s degree in project management, product management, or business development or similar fields. They assume job titles such as innovation product manager, innovation project manager or business developer.
  • Individuals interested to become innovation managers can opt to join a professional organization like the Product Development and Management Association. The organization focuses on the full life cycle of product development and management activities, chief among them innovation.

Experience

Competencies/Skills

  • Innovation managers have outstanding communication skills. They’re great at understanding people and their needs, which in turn allows them to sell them on projects and timelines to keeps things moving.
  • They know how to position things in a way that the other person can receive the information without feeling a sense of stress or anxiety.
  • Creativity is among the most essential skills for innovation managers, since they are responsible for developing new products for an organization.
  • They should also have strong interpersonal skills in order to collaborate with research and development or marketing personnel and organizational stakeholders.
  • Innovation managers have strong strategic thinking skills. They critically think about ideas and strategically develop multiple perspectives regarding the ideas.
  • They have excellent leadership skills and they are great facilitators and connectors.
  • Innovation managers are competent in pulling in talents from multiple sections parts of the organization and leading various teams to make new things happen and transform ideas into realities.
  • They are creative problem-solvers because they have technical skills to develop solutions.
  • They are competent at working with complexities and puzzles and are drawn toward situations that require creative problem-solving skills.
  • Innovation managers need excellent market research and analytical abilities to utilize market trends and customer data in their development of new products.

Individual Attributes

  • Innovation managers believe: They have the ability to believe in the ideas their team is generating as well as in their team’s ability to implement those ideas. They have the gift of sharing their vivid strategic visions of the future while inspiring their teams to determine the best path to success.
  • They embrace risk: Innovation requires risk, and innovation managers create a climate of trust for their teams to feel safe to toss around ideas. Innovation managers support their teams and embrace the risk that comes with invention and progress.
  • Innovation managers are patient: Successful innovation managers create collaborative relationships that exude patience and a nurturing hand to guide their creative teams. They balance due dates with reasonable ideation and development time frames.
  • They pitch ideas: Successful innovation managers are highly effective at pitching ideas and persuading others in the validity and possibility of their ideas.
  • They are passionate: Successful innovation managers are passionate about the ideas and results that stem from a well-executed plan. Innovative managers make their strategies clear and pursue them tirelessly.
Part
02
of six
Part
02

Innovation Manager - Pain Points

The major pain points faced by innovation managers are organizational culture, resistance, and fragmented effort, bureaucratic lag time, cost of innovation, measuring and bench marking innovation, lack of employee motivation, lack of employee empowerment and bringing technical and business departments together.

Organization Culture

  • Company culture is an important aspect in which innovation success depends on. It is hard to incorporate sudden change into the daily activities in an organization's environment.
  • The innovation manager is responsible for creating a nurturing environment and encouragement for innovation into the already existing organization environment.

Resistance and Fragmented Effort

  • Innovation requires the engagement and involvement of multiple departments in an organization. Both the business department and the technical department are part and parcel of innovation. Some departments or even individuals in an organization may be resistance to change brought about by innovation.
  • Resistance from any of the departments is a huge pain point to the innovation manager. For an innovation strategy to be executed perfectly and deliver the expected results, all departments involved should work in harmony towards the same goal.

Bureaucratic Lag Time

  • Organization structures sometimes lead to excessive bureaucracy which is often a hindrance to innovation. Bureaucracy slows down the speed of change and affects motivation as well.
  • The manager in charge of innovation is required to bridge the gap between management and technical people which means he/she has to go through the organization structure to initiate any changes. The complications and slowdown brought about by bureaucracy are therefore a major hindrance to innovation.

Cost of innovation

  • Innovation can be expensive due to requirements such as the need for new infrastructure, and testing costs, among others. In cases where innovation is a continuous activity in an organization, different infrastructure and testing/evaluation facilities are likely continuous requirements which increase the overall cost of innovation.
  • Innovation cost is a big pain point for the innovation manager of a company. They are expected to come up with strategies that promote innovation while reducing the cost of the innovations to the minimal.

Measuring and Bench Marking innovation

  • Traditional key performance indicators such as revenue or sales volume may not be applicable when measuring and bench marking innovation. Evaluation of innovation success is core to improving its success and therefore cannot be overlooked.
  • The innovation manager in a company is tasked with the task of evaluating the success of innovation. Given that this is not an easy task, it is a major pain point for innovation managers.

Lack of Employee Motivation

  • Motivation initiatives such as contests and inventor incentive programs can motivate employees to be more innovative.
  • Some companies do not offer any motivation initiatives which leads to a lack of motivation to innovate from the employees. The manager in charge of innovation is therefore faced with the challenge of working with people who are not motivated for the changes and ideas involving innovation.

Bringing Technical and Business Departments Together

  • Innovation is a wholesome activity in that all departments should work as a unit to provide the best environment for innovation to occur. The business department, however, focuses on business-oriented aspects such as cost of production, the efficiency of production and marketing whereas the technical department focuses on technical issues such as the material used, functionality and efficiency of a product, among others.
  • The manager in charge of innovation is expected to bring all the departments together and ensure that their innovation strategy caters to the needs of all departments. This is a major pain point because the departments are focused on different aspects.

Lack of Employee Empowerment

  • In some companies, managers are worried that creativity and innovation will distract workers from their everyday roles in the company. 37% of employees are not encouraged to take risks or to try new ideas. Innovation needs leadership and managers' encouragement to take hold throughout the enterprise.
  • In an organization where employee empowerment is minimal, the person who manages innovation has the responsibility to fuel innovation in spite of the fact that employees the manager does not empower the employees in the organization.
Part
03
of six
Part
03

Innovation Manager - Pain Point Solutions

Solutions to pain points that an innovation manager has to face at work, including organization culture, resistance and fragmented effort, bureaucratic lag time, cost of innovation, measuring and bench marking innovation, lack of employee innovation, bringing technical and business departments together, and lack of employee empowerment, have been compiled below.

Organization Culture

  • The innovation manager's potential solution for solving issues with the organization culture is creating a nurturing environment and encouragement for innovation into the already existing organization environment.
  • According to Forbes, three steps for fixing a broken organizational culture include allowing the employees to receive what they crave from the workplace. For the silent generation, it is the value recognition for their contribution, for Baby Boomers its human interaction and team activities, for Generation X it is well-defined and measurable goals, for Millennials it is coaching, and for Generation Z it is money and job security.
  • The second step includes assessing the culture and introducing changes, innovating, and allowing others to share ideas at work.
  • Finally, there should be a game plan in place for how the culture change should be happening. This could include individual development plans, leadership lunches, and annual learning plans, but also rewards such as high 5s, rock star, weekly wins, and Friday toasts.

Resistance and Fragmented Effort

  • Resistance from any departments is a huge pain point for an innovation manager. For an innovation strategy to be executed perfectly and deliver the expected results, all departments involved should work in harmony towards the same goal.
  • The first step to changing the mindset of resistance is by engaging those who are opposed to change within the organization. By doing this, the innovation manager is able to see what such people's concerns are and "possibly alleviate the problem in a timely manner. By allowing employees time to give their input, it assures them that they are part of a team that actually cares about its employees."
  • Practical things that can help in the process include establishing a clear constant line of communication between the C-Suite and the rest of the organization, which allows for the effective engagement of employees on all levels. Employee engagement surveys are a great way to lead this process, as the company can gain direct input from employees when approaching the subject.

Bureaucratic Lag Time

  • The manager in charge of innovation is required to bridge the gap between management and technical people, which means he/she has to go through the organization structure to initiate any changes. The complications and slowdown brought about by bureaucracy are therefore a major hindrance to innovation.
  • Reducing the hierarchy of the organizational structure is the solution to speeding up the process of getting things done within an organization, without different projects getting stuck because of red tape issues. A flat organization structure is able to be less encumbered by authority, as it has fewer managers required to review each piece of work.
  • The most innovative companies recommend following the steps of establishing a set of micro-enterprises within the company. Micro-enterprises are teams of around a dozen people that each have P&L responsibility, as well as the right to hire talent, make their own decisions, and in some cases distribute profits as they see fit.

Cost of innovation

  • Innovation cost is a big pain point for the innovation manager of a company. They are expected to create strategies that promote innovation while reducing the cost of the innovations to the minimal.
  • According to Forbes, the solution to reducing innovation costs is open innovation, a type of collaboration that includes working with external companies toward different innovation goals. This type of approach offers tremendous potential to come up with innovation solutions while also assisting companies in taming the costs associated.
  • Rather than "inventing the wheel from scratch and in house each time a company wants to improve a product, service or process, organizations are partnering with a wide range of external parties such as startups and independent software vendors to tap into their ideas, insights and solutions."

Measuring and Bench Marking innovation

  • Traditional key performance indicators, such as revenue or sales volume, may not be applicable when measuring and bench marking innovation. Evaluation of innovation success is core to improving its success and therefore cannot be overlooked.
  • When it comes to innovation KPIs, because of the "abstract and somewhat uncertain nature of innovation, finding the right metrics to measure innovation can be tricky."
  • The most effective solution for innovation bench marking is to measure the level of abilities within the organization or the progress made compared to the starting point. This approach puts the emphasis on quality over quantity.
  • The steps towards bench marking innovation include introducing input metrics and output metrics. While input metrics measure if the company is doing enough of the right activities to reach its goals and whether the organization is allocating its resources properly, output metrics measure whether such activities and resources are having the desired impact on the company's innovation process.

Lack of Employee Motivation

  • Harvard Business Review suggests using three core methodologies to help employees feel more motivated — encouraging employees to play to their strengths, creating opportunities to experiment at work, and assisting employees to tailor the purpose of the work to their own interests.
  • Steps that can be made to make this process successful include making sure that the company is paying its employees their worth, offering opportunities for self-development, setting clear and achievable goals, acknowledging employees who reach their goals and targets, and providing a pleasant work environment.

Bringing Technical and Business Departments Together

  • The manager in charge of innovation is expected to bring all departments together and ensure that their innovation strategy caters to the needs of all. This is a major pain point because departments are typically focused on different aspects.
  • According to McKinsey, the most effective way to bring business and tech departments together is by merging them into one organizational sub-department better known as a platform. Platforms focus on "business solutions to serve clients (internal or external) and to supply other platforms — they operate as independent entities that bring together business, technology, governance, processes, and people management and are empowered to move quickly."
  • The crucial step to executing such a large organizational change is dividing the organization by its core products. This usually entails a split into customer proposition platforms, business solution platforms, and core IT provisioning platforms.

Lack of Employee Empowerment

  • In some companies, managers are worried that creativity and innovation will distract workers from their everyday roles in the company. 37% of employees are not encouraged to take risks or to try new ideas. Innovation needs leadership and managers' encouragement to take hold throughout the enterprise.
  • Delegating is crucial for organizations to drive employee empowerment. A vital step in driving delegation-driven mindsets in managers is by asking them to give employees the responsibility to lead a meeting or share updates on their projects.

Part
04
of six
Part
04

Innovation Manager - Key Roles/Duties

Seven key roles or duties that an innovation manager has to fulfill include 1) finding the ideas, 2) developing the process to embrace the ideas, 3) promoting an innovation culture, 4) designing the strategy, 5) leading the innovation team, 6) creating activities to collect ideas from employees, and 7) getting ideas from the customers.

1. Find Ideas

  • An innovation manager, as its title indicates, is in charge of looking for new ideas and developing them, creating, and inventing innovation projects.
  • This also involves looking for new technologies that will make the implementation of the idea easier or will benefit in reaching business goals.

2. Develop Innovation Processes

  • After generating the idea, the innovation manager is in charge of creating the processes that will be followed by the employees, and the structure for the idea to work.
  • This includes creating the guidelines, metrics to follow up on the processes, and measure and analyze improvement, create reports and presentations to keep management aware of the process, managing quality, determining if the project fulfills the expectations of the customers, etc.

3. Promote a Culture of Innovation Within the Company

  • As the leader of innovation within the company, the innovation manager is also in charge of promoting an innovation culture, enabling employees to generate ideas, promoting a need to acquire new knowledge, educate on innovation knowledge, collect ideas from innovations, and protect them through subsides or patents.
  • Develop a work atmosphere where employees are motivated to perform high and collaborate.

4. Design an Implementation Strategy

  • The innovation manager is in charge of developing the projects generated from the new ideas, create the structure, the strategy to implement them, and manage them.
  • To do so, the innovation manager analyzes the weaknesses, strengths, risks, and opportunities associated with the project, understand the purpose of conducting the project, and which issues will it overcome to define a
  • To understand the goals and direction of the business, the innovation manager works with business managers.

5. Lead the Innovation Team

  • As the manager of innovation, one role is to lead the team of innovators, assign tasks, and functions to comply with the goals of the company.
  • The innovation manager designs and assigns team functions, activities, strategies, roles, programs, and processes in the innovation team that will lead to more innovation, and also works with the head of innovation.
  • This person even works with innovation development groups to design outputs and to conduct insights into the work they do.

6. Create an Innovation Process with the Customers

  • Part of the responsibilities of the innovation manager is to design and develop initiatives to collect ideas from the clients, like customer innovation campaigns, feedback from customer experiences, market research, and analysis, etc.

7. Conduct Activities Focused on Innovation

  • To generate new ideas, the innovation manager creates brainstorming sessions and workshops, and uses innovation tools, technology, and the ideas collected from these activities to implement in the company.

Research Strategy

To determine the key roles and duties of an innovation manager, we compared articles dedicated to the job descriptions for employers, and the list of responsibilities for different types of innovation managers available in global job boards like Indeed, Glassdoor, Smart Recruiters, and Jobvite, among others. We also tried changing the locations for these job boards, to see the requirements in different countries.

Once we had the lists of responsibilities, roles, and duties we selected as "key" the ones repeat more often across the different sources.

Part
05
of six
Part
05

The Innovation Process

The innovation process is a key part of introducing new ideas, products, or services to the market. The innovation process goes through the following steps: innovation strategy, brainstorming, idea evaluation and selection, concept development, solution development and prototype testing, implementation in production, and launch.

Definition

  • The is defined as "the path of translating new and/or existing knowledge into marketable solutions."
  • Companies that are decisive in the holistic approach of their processes are ahead of their competition. These companies think about how to improve the different stages by incorporating innovation.
  • Every step of the way, from generation, through development, to market entry, needs to be intentionally improved.
  • Process innovation is defined as "the application or introduction of a new technology or method of doing something that helps an organization remain competitive and meet customer demands."
  • This is when an organization solves an existing problem or performs a process in a more beneficial way to those involved and those who rely on these processes.
  • An example of a process innovation is when the introduction of a new sequence speeds up production. This saves time, money, and energy for the entire team.
  • Organizations are constantly looking to implement new technology or to re-think their processes to bring process innovation to the forefront.

Steps

  • The process is defined as the entire road map which should be anchored into the organization.

Structure

  • This is a narrower view of the process.
  • A structure enables one to deal with issues as they arise and stay on course in the innovation process.
  • If there is no structure in place, the innovation process may feel complex, big and unachievable.
  • Structure creates urgency in the implementation of the innovation process. Companies can talk about innovative ideas and have no impact to show. Structure pushes it to implementation.
  • Structure increases efficiency and effectiveness. Relying on structure increases efficiency and effectiveness, increasing the likelihood that the innovative idea will be adopted in the market.
  • Structure increases performance. The step by step structure creates an allowance to improve on weak areas and optimize performance.
  • Structure ensures that there are incentives and rewards for team members who ensure the success of the innovation process.
  • The innovation process should cover the following steps: innovation strategy, brainstorming, idea evaluation and selection, concept development, solution development and prototype testing, implementation in production, and launch.
  • The last four steps are defined as the front-end of the innovation process.

Innovation Strategy

  • It is of paramount importance that the strategic corporate goals are clearly defined taking into account future trends and company needs. These become guidelines for the entire process.
  • Here, we define the market that will be targeted/affected.
  • Companies also search markets, products, and fields to determine which innovative activities they should be involved in.

Brainstorming

  • Once a strategy is set in place, brainstorming begins. This iterative process brings in ideas from a variety of sources and addresses various methods. Here, the company can tap into their employees, customers, suppliers, new technologies, start-ups, crowdsourcing, competitions, pitching contests, hack-a-thons, among others.
  • The company's strategy determines which sources of ideas have the highest potential.
  • Additionally, all ideas should be collected into one system so that no ideas are lost through the cracks, being granted equal access to evaluation and implementation.

Idea Evaluation and Selection

Concept Development

  • The selected ideas will now undergo concept development.
  • At this stage, the output may be in any of the following methods: an innovation concept, requirement specification, requirement specification, business case, business plan, or business model canvas.
  • This stage specifically outlines what will be developed. It clearly defines the final product. It dictates the subsequent stages of development and implementation.
  • Understanding customer requirements, opportunities and market potentials, and the evaluation of feasibility and risks are crucial components of this stage.
  • Any stumbling blocks or potential threats should be identified at this stage.

Solution Development and Prototype Testing

Implementation in Production

  • At the implementation stage, the solution is developed and ready. The ideal suppliers must be identified and the processes of the service should be established.
  • The production process should also be clearly outlined and defined.
  • Firstly, it is essential that at this stage, the solution is producible and does not fail. Secondly, the cost is a main factor which is defined by its design.
  • In order to have a better handle on the cost, the development stage must determine where and how each component is sourced which contributes to the overall cost. This shows that this stage and the previous stage go hand-in-hand.
  • Feasibility in production is a selection criteria.

Launch

  • The solution must be marketed to the customer. This needs to ensure that the customer can and would like to purchase it. Sales channels, marketing strategies, and advertising are clearly outlined and implemented at this stage.
  • This is lightly touched in the innovation strategy stage and implemented at this stage. In this phase, it is essential to obtain feedback from consumers and the market which will inform further development in order to optimize the product.
  • After this stage, the solution goes into life cycle management.
Part
06
of six
Part
06

The Innovation Process - Best Practices

Two best practices for overcoming problems in the innovation process include the initiation of open communication by company leaders to build trust in the company's innovation process, and to let all employees contribute to the process as they all have a unique perspective that can help identify new opportunities for innovation. The second best practice was used by Best Buy's new CEO to engage with employees in the innovation process, leading to the creation of a better internal search engine that helped the company to increase sales by 2.5%.

Management Needs to Initiate Open Communication

  • To overcome problems in the innovation process, there needs to be open communication between company leaders and employees. The process should be initiated by the leadership team and is a best practice as it helps to build an atmosphere of trust within the company, as well as setting the stage for everyone to engage in the innovation process.
  • This best practice is used when company leaders start the open communication process by regularly sharing both good and bad information with employees. To sustain innovation, leaders of companies must offer multiple opportunities for communication and try to offer an open-door communication policy between employees and senior executives.
  • This can be regular face-to-face meetings between employees and leaders, CEO lunches with a select group of employees, monthly department meetings between managers and employees, or intranet forums to share ideas and get feedback. These direct engagement meetings enable leaders to communicate their willingness to receive innovative ideas from front-line employees and to help those employees closest to the customer feel heard.
  • An example of a company that uses this best practice is Southwest Airlines.
  • The company’s open communication policy was used to reduce the impact of the "sudden increase in fuel costs during the 1990-91 Gulf War." The company's leaders ensured that there was open communication with employees as fuel prices increased. And, the company's CEO, Herb Kelleher, sent a memo requesting pilots help mitigate the situation. Pilots were asked to "design and implement a plan to reduce fuel consumption."
  • The result of the open communication was the airline's pilots found ways to innovate and rapidly reduce fuel consumption for flights without compromising on service or safety.

Innovation Should Come From all Departments of the Company

  • To overcome problems in the innovation process, everyone in all departments should contribute to the process. This is a best practice as it enables all those working for a company, not just a few designated special innovators, to take part in the idea generation and implementation process. As well, it encourages ownership among employees.
  • Some companies only use innovation teams to create new products and services. However, when identifying innovative ideas, employees from all departments need to be involved, as they always have unique perspectives considering they have a front seat in seeing the problems faced by a company, and know how to use cost-saving ideas and products to solve the problems, thus better serve the company's customers.
  • Companies should always look for ways to incorporate other views from within the company and give employees at every level the responsibility of thinking about innovation in the company. This is very important, especially for very big companies with many stakeholders that need to divide responsibilities related to innovation, to help in satisfying the needs of customers and create new market opportunities.
  • The person or department that should lead innovation depends on the type of innovation the company is trying to implement and is not a "one-size-fits-all" idea. According to 219 Design, various departments must work together on a clear vision and true innovation needs radical collaboration.
  • An example of a company that uses the best practice is Best Buy.
  • The company encourages all employees to share their ideas and leaders keep them informed of how viable the ideas are. The company also ensures that it does not punish failed innovations as it recognizes that successful innovations carry the risk of mistakes being made. Instead, the company tries to learn from the failed innovation ideas to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.
  • In 2012, after being hired by Best Buy to help to revive the company's fortunes, as sales and the stock price kept falling, one of the things the CEO Hubert Joly did was to engage with all employees in the innovation process.
  • All employees from all departments were directly asked about the problems they faced and how these could be fixed. One thing employees asked to be fixed was the internal search engine. This is because it "returned bad data about what items were in stock." The feedback from employees was used to innovate and re-built the search engine.
  • The result of the best practice is that two years after the search engine was re-built with input from all employees, the effort contributed to the company's sales increasing by 2.5%, the highest in years, after a successful Black Friday sale.


Sources
Sources

From Part 06
Quotes
  • "Open communication between management and employees sets the stage for an atmosphere of trust. But if you want to establish a new, more trusting culture, you can’t expect employees to take the first step."
Quotes
  • "Be open to innovation from all parts of the business. Employees often have a unique perspective when it comes to identifying new opportunities for innovation."
Quotes
  • "In his first months on the job, Joly invested lots of time in the Best Buy stores surrounding its Minnesota headquarters. His mission? Ask rank-and-file employees directly about their frustrations and issues. "
Quotes
  • "However, with greater innovation comes the risk of greater mistakes. Realizing this connection, Best Buy does not punish failures from innovation, but instead, looks to see what they can learn from them."