Overview: Failing to innovate can cause even an established business to lose ground to competitors that embrace change and engage employees. Innovation leadership can make the difference between an innovation strategy that produces results and one that languishes on paper. While there are many job titles for innovation professionals in 2022, these are the most prominent.
Why Are Professionals Entering the Innovation Space?
Innovation professionals are entering companies at nearly every level, from engineering to the C-suite – a reflection of how quickly things are changing.
As new technologies arrive and new challenges need to be met, companies are outgrowing both ad hoc forms of innovation and more formal committees of employees with other roles. Properly assessing the needs of an organization and its goals requires full time professionals who can spend their workday piloting programs, testing equipment, collecting suggestions, and analyzing data to offer new ideas and approaches.
An innovation consultant is an independent contractor brought in by a company, usually for a defined period of time. It’s a particularly good fit for smaller companies or those industries that tend toward incremental innovation. Innovation consultants help client companies develop and plan innovation goals; construct strategies and business plans that realign current goals around a culture of innovation; and advise on innovation culture, ideation processes, and identification of new markets. Innovation consultants generally earn around $97,000 to $150,000 per year.
Chief Innovation Officer
A company’s Chief Innovation Officer is a top executive whose purpose is to lead innovation strategy internally, helping business units reconsider approaches that may unintentionally limit innovation. Alessandro Di Fiori, CEO of the European Centre for Strategic Innovation, lists seven key roles of the Chief Innovation Officer:
- Supporting best practices in market research for novel ideas and insights, and introducing processes that encourage creative thinking
- Training company personnel on key skills needed to pursue innovation
- Supporting new product and service initiatives and training managers on how they can support those initiatives
- Identifying new market opportunities
- Leading introduction of idea generation platforms and practices like hackathons and crowdsourcing
- Directing seed funding to good ideas that might otherwise not be funded
- Allocating resources and support for promising and potentially disruptive projects
Chief Innovation Officers can expect to earn around $180,000 annually in base salary.
An innovation engineer is where the rubber meets the road in innovation. They’re trained in advanced methods and tools to develop innovative ideas, accelerate projects, and solve problems that may arise during innovation adoption. They design product pipelines, set up processes to build and test prototypes, design and pilot services and internal initiatives, and reiterate the lessons learned on the next project.
The base salary of innovation engineers is between $75,000 and $90,000 annually.
Innovation strategists use their analytical skills to evaluate their organization’s operations and work with others to develop a sound innovation strategy. They provide innovation leadership in practical ways that ensure ideas are piloted, tested, and implemented.
Typically, they oversee risk management, collaborate with executive leadership, and may also work with vendors and other partners in developing new products. Innovation strategists often have degrees in business management or related fields, plus work experience managing cross-functional teams. They can expect to earn around $62,000 annually.
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