Innovation demands a number of steps and processes that take time and effort to execute and achieve.
Hence, with all the activities it requires, it’s only natural for businesses to have a systematic plan and a point person to oversee it — which is the reason why innovation managers exist.
However, because innovation managers take on so many roles…
What exactly are his main roles and responsibilities in the company? If you were given this job title, what contribution can you offer in the success of the organization’s innovation initiatives?
What areas of the innovation process are you supposed to look after? And what aspects should you be concerned with?
What is an innovation manager?
The function of innovation managers, like most other aspects of innovation, is frequently ambiguous as they can take up a lot of roles in the innovation process.
In huge companies, the innovation manager acts under the direction of the innovation director.
In small and medium-sized businesses:
The innovation manager spearheads all innovation-related projects and activities, particularly the innovation inbox (a library that houses all the innovation ideas and problems received from various sources) of the organization.
Clearly, there is no specific work profile that pertains to the role of innovation managers in the company as the term can be utilized for a variety of innovation roles.
However, if we were to boil down their main functions in the company, it would be to:
- Empower and equip the organization in shaping the culture and practices necessary for innovation to flourish, which includes training employees on how to do so.
- Manage the entire innovation process.
What do innovation managers do?
As mentioned above, innovation managers take up many roles. Some of these include:
1. Defining the innovation strategy
Innovation managers should be able to establish and articulate a clear vision, strategy, and innovation plan along with the rest of the innovation team.
This necessitates incredible foresight into:
- Emerging trends and developments
- Organizational competencies
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Implementation of necessary tools
- Logical, inquisitive, and scientific outlook
Overall, this vision, plan, and strategy will direct the company’s innovation plans, deadlines, projects, and day-to-day activities.
2. Fostering innovation mindset in the workplace
Because innovation is critical to a company’s success, every innovation manager must promote an innovative mindset inside the organization.
- Under their guidance and supervision, employees should be able to develop a comprehensive standpoint that seeks to create new business models, processes, products, and services that provide added value for both the organization and its users.
- People in the company should demonstrate ingenuity in identifying key difficulties and subsequently addressing them to produce actual company value.
- Employees should demonstrate a set of behaviors, orientations, passions, and values that recognize, appreciate, prioritize and embrace the role and significance of innovation in the growth and development of the business.
- Being empowered to ideate consistently
- Embodying an innovative culture that encourages professional, holistic improvement
- Working together to make innovation a collective and collaborative effort
- Exhibiting an open mind to accept and discuss other perspectives, even from those who openly oppose their own thoughts and perceptions.
3. Assigning innovation tasks and responsibilities
It’s within the responsibility of innovation managers to assign the right tasks and responsibilities to the right people in order to fulfill the organization’s innovation goals and objectives.
They delegate ownership and accountability for outcomes, as well as the power and authority to do whatever is required to achieve the intended results.
Remember that in situations with much less bureaucratic limitations and a readiness to take and assume calculated risks, innovation thrives. However, in the absence of a defined management framework, validation may fail and great ideas may be lost.
This is where responsibility and autonomy may come hand in hand to come up with an ideal framework that properly supports the innovation process.
4. Selecting, introducing, and supervising the use of the company’s innovation toolset
Your choice of tools may make or break your innovation process.
To ensure the effectiveness of the organization’s innovation process from start to end, innovation managers must develop a methodical approach that promotes productivity in all aspects.
To do this, the innovation manager has to select the finest tools and solutions that could help with ideation all the way through the launch of the innovation itself.
- Given the availability of hundreds of innovation tools, innovation managers must be proficient at selecting business solutions that are a great fit for their goals, plans, strategies, and objectives.
- To be specific, as ideation and evaluation are two vital activities in the innovation process, they may need two tools for each undertaking. One to produce unique, novel, and profitable ideas, and the other, to simplify the selection process.
- However, the work can also be so much easier and upfront if they can use the same tool in selecting the best concepts via rating mechanisms.
Hence, in the selection, introduction, and supervision of the organization’s innovation toolset, innovation managers have to consider two important factors:
- The ease of use and navigation of tools
- The features of their selected innovation software in relation to overall workflow
5. Enhancing innovation skills and competency
Employees with strong, diversified innovation skills contribute to the overall competency of every business. These qualities are critical for prospering in a technologically driven environment.
Due to technological advancements — particularly automation — employees must figure out how they can continually bring value to the business. Such an event requires them to enhance their abilities and utilize them to the company’s advantage.
To understand further, here are three main points to remember:
- Employees must have innovation skills in order to contribute significantly to the company’s innovation performance. These qualities are critical in developing and improving an organization’s products, services, procedures, and methodologies.
- Prior to actually making big changes and confronting challenging business conditions, teams must improve their innovation abilities and polish their overall competency.
- And it is, in fact, up to innovation managers to ensure that this refinement actually takes place. Employees must, in a real sense, possess the abilities necessary to provide outputs that sustainably support the company’s innovation efforts.
6. Overseeing and managing the entire innovation process
An innovation manager is in charge of leading, directing, and managing the company’s innovation activities.
It’s his obligation to look after the innovation engine and keep it running by constantly providing it with ideas, concepts, and challenges to respond to.
An innovation manager’s ultimate purpose is to produce successful innovation programs that generate ongoing commercial value for the organization, which involves the following:
- Ideation. Innovation managers perceive innovation as a numbers game, which is why they see to it that at least 300 ideas are created. This way, they can avoid restricting the process’s results. And they can minimize the complexity that comes from having to deal with low-quality concepts and proposals.
- Evaluation and selection. Because innovation managers are entrusted with overseeing the company’s innovation engine, they are also the ones who create or decide on the criteria required to effectively analyze and enhance ideas. Provided that these ideas are coming from a myriad of perspectives, they must be thoroughly analyzed to determine if any of them correspond with the company’s innovation priorities, strategies, and objectives. After deciding on the criteria and methods of assessment, innovation managers will then spearhead the scoring of every concept in collaboration with the innovation team.
- Prototyping and validation. Innovation managers oversee the creation of strategic product designs. Aside from approving the number and type of participants to join in the validation process
Innovation managers also lead the following steps:
- Outlining of needed alterations
- Assessment of product and service demands
- Sample testing with actual customers to verify for readability, defects, inconsistencies, difficulties, and performance
7. Reporting about the pace, progress, and outcomes of innovation
As an innovation manager, it’s vital to communicate the status and outcomes of your innovation strategies, initiatives, and projects to:
- Increase and sustain the support of your stakeholders.
- Determine how and where your resources were allocated.
- Check to see if your time and resources were wisely spent.
- Lay the groundwork for future and further deployments.
- Prepare scaling-up strategies and processes.
- Applaud and motivate the innovation team for a job well done.
- Recognize areas that need improvement.
Innovation managers are valuable assets of the company
Innovation managers significantly influence the survival of the business.
They are at the vanguard of the company’s innovation efforts, and their expertise is extremely warranted before, during, and after the entire innovation process.
Their leadership style has a major and substantial impact on innovation results, and the culture they choose to develop becomes the foundation of the company’s future innovation initiatives.
It should be noted, however, that the innovation manager is not required to carry out the actual process by himself.
He needs to delegate the right tasks to the right people to avoid pauses in the innovation engine, resulting in the slowdown or even collapse of subsequent innovation efforts.
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