The role of an innovation manager is defined by the skills needed to embrace disruption and manage change.
Innovation managers may be referred to by a variety of titles such as:
- Chief Innovation Officer
- Head of Innovation
- Innovation Portfolio Manager
Some innovation manager roles are executive or director positions with more administrative responsibilities. Though the core objectives remain: Take new ideas and cultivate them into outcomes that change lives inside and outside the organization for the better.
Innovation managers help create an innovation-driven culture. They’re instrumental in shaping the processes needed for keeping forward momentum going, and analyzing new technologies and approaches to development within their industry. A recent study by McKinsey found that business functions are increasingly built around digital tools and innovation is needed to integrate these tools into how we work.
5 Key Skillsets of an Innovation Manager
Here are the five skill sets that are essential for building an innovative work culture.
1. Organizational Understanding
Innovation managers should have a clear understanding of how their organization works. Knowing the practicalities of day-to-day operations as well as the technology those operations need to function is crucial to implementing new ideas. It makes navigating challenging situations and assessing ideas easier.
2. Project Management
Innovation managers are almost always involved in multiple projects at once. The ability to keep work moving on each of them enables change across many different areas of an organization.
This calls for excellent communication and planning skills. Innovation managers are required to design project plans according to the expectations of major stakeholders. They keep everyone informed of progress and challenges along the way.
Innovation managers must be able to design and present a clear vision and innovation strategy within an organization. This requires insight into future trends, needed technologies, and analytical thinking. This vision will guide both long-term thinking and day-to-day tasks.
Innovation leaders also excel at team-building and must be open to new ideas and willing to listen to input. This requires great attention to detail and responsibility for leadership – innovation managers should support and challenge team members as they work to refine and reiterate ideas.
Breaking boundaries is what innovation is all about. When the right vision is in place, employees will understand the value of contributing new ideas while feeling a part of the overall mission.
4. Detail-Focused Management
Innovation managers need to focus on results. They need to be resourceful and understand how to connect others to this way of thinking.
They also need to be willing to shift ways of doing things as needed. If an idea doesn’t work, they find another that does – and they have a full understanding of why which helps future approaches succeed.
5. Operational Flexibility
Innovation managers are not specialists in one area. Instead, they think across diverse platforms to form multiple strategies.
They possess a wide range of capabilities and invest in learning in ways that keep projects moving forward. They know how to seek out individuals with the right talent and skills to make things happen.
Innovation helps companies remain relevant. Since 2000, 52% of Fortune 500 companies were either bought out or no longer exist. Organizations that innovate will continue evolving when led by innovation managers who possess the skills needed to succeed.