Innovation is a sector in which companies are putting an increasing amount of effort into optimizing, and with this growth comes new opportunities. Some of the roles that have sprung out of an increased focus on innovation are Chief Innovation Officer, Innovation Consultant, and, notably, Innovation Manager.
Without context, it might be challenging to understand exactly what an innovation manager does and how they can be successful. In this article, we’ll define the innovation manager position and walk through the essential information to understand their responsibilities.
What Is an Innovation Manager?
An innovation manager is a person who is responsible for managing innovative strategies, activities, and opportunities for an organization. This innovation is meant to impact the company’s ability to grow in the future and create unique value internally and externally.
Innovation doesn’t just happen with a product; innovation managers are responsible for innovating processes all over the business. It’s important to emphasize growth across all operations to push creative boundaries and implore employees to find new levels of success. Some examples of where an innovation manager might focus across an organization could be proposing new ad/marketing structures, devising a training plan for new hires, implementing brainstorming strategies across the board, or presenting the benefits of innovation throughout the company.
One of the most important parts of an innovation manager’s job is to continuously advance the innovation initiatives within a company, always asking questions, raising concerns, and searching for new opportunities.
Roles & Responsibilities of an Innovation Manager
Understanding what an innovation manager does is much easier when you break down their roles and responsibilities. It’s important to note that every innovation management position will have slightly different duties due to differences in innovation strategy, but their overall tasks will be similar regardless of the plan they implement.
Monitor Innovation Campaigns
As an innovation manager, the most significant responsibility is to create a multi-dimensional innovation campaign. This campaign will have key goals, processes, and strategies to foster sustainable and successful innovation across the organization. The paramount task for innovation managers is to see that the innovation campaign is successfully implemented and continues to produce innovation for your chosen touchpoints.
Align Innovation & Business Goals
One of an innovation manager’s crucial tasks is aligning the business’s goals with the outcomes of innovation initiatives. In order to be effective, innovation must have a tangible impact that moves the organization’s goals forward. To ensure this happens, innovation managers need to closely align their innovation strategy with the goals of the business.
Aligning innovation and business goals is relatively simple. Look at the places where the business is most valuable to its customers, cross-reference that with the places where the business sees the most opportunity and growth, and develop a strategy that targets the most important areas within those channels.
Create Continuous Innovation Systems
The key to being an innovation manager is understanding that innovation doesn’t just happen once. In order to be successful, you must create a sustainable system of innovation that can continuously spot action areas and create unique value.
To create continuous innovation systems, you need to think carefully about the software, structures, and campaigns you organize. Some of the most important factors in creating continuous innovation systems are new ideas, strategic proposals, measurable projects, and design thinking exercises. By thinking about enhancing those opportunities, you are on the right track to creating continuous innovation systems.
Integrate Collaboration Across the Business
Integrating collaboration is a key facet to stimulating innovation, and it’s essential for creating a culture of innovation throughout an organization. When people collaborate frequently, they reinforce innovation as a strategic method of growth and ideation, so it’s important that innovation managers integrate collaboration in as many touchpoints as possible.
Integrating collaboration doesn’t just happen through conversations, however, and it’s important to have strong structures in place to facilitate regular communication. Integrating templates, workshops, activities, and habitual collaboration is key to increasing individuals’ creativity while enhancing the entire group’s collaborative outcomes.
For example, structures like Fresco’s Brainwriting template are perfect for integrating regular collaboration within teams.
Manage Strategy, People, and Timelines
Being an innovation manager goes beyond just implementing new activities and encouraging collaboration; you must actively manage the strategy in place, the people on the ground, and the key timelines for success. When addressing these factors, the best thing to do is create measurable expectations for success. This enables you to easily measure predetermined markers to clarify what is successful and what needs more attention. Especially with the constantly evolving landscape of innovation strategy, you don’t want to fall behind on these initiatives.
Evaluate New Software
In order to create innovative outcomes, you often need to use innovative processes, which means implementing new software systems. As an innovation manager, it’s vital that you recommend the programs that best meet the needs of your organization while also ensuring that everyone will be able to use them efficiently. Suppose your team struggles to integrate the software into their routines. In that case, it won’t be effective, so it’s important to think about what will be helpful for your team when evaluating innovative software.
Some examples of software to implement could be:
- Idea Management
- Innovation Management
- Shared Databases
- Collaboration Software
- Communication Tools
Create Idea Evaluation Systems
Implementing new innovation systems is a big step in the right direction, but these systems are only helpful if the ideas they create align with the business’s goals. As an innovation manager, it’s important to regularly check the outcomes and ideas of innovative systems to ensure they are continuously meeting the goals of your innovation blueprint. If they aren’t, then something is misaligned in the strategy or execution of your workflow.
Critical Skills for an Innovation Manager Position
In order to be successful as an innovation manager, you need to cultivate some skills that will help you stay on top of your organization’s innovation activities. Here are some of the most important skills to have as a successful innovation manager.
- Leadership: Being an innovation manager means taking responsibility and formulating a strategy for many people within an organization. To do this effectively, innovation managers need to have strong leadership skills. Being a leader means being able to guide people in the right direction and managing projects when things go wrong. These road bumps are inevitable in any innovation strategy, and you need to be a good leader to overcome them.
- Research: One important aspect of being an innovation manager is being on top of the innovative trends within your ecosystem and always thinking about how you could take advantage. It’s important that you have strong research skills and can stay up-to-date on industry standards and innovative trends.
- Project Management: In order to create an actionable strategy and formulate accurate timelines, innovation managers usually depend on some project management skills to organize their workflow. Being able to manage projects, whether in software development, marketing, or consulting, provides a lot of the core skills required to be an effective innovation manager.
- People Skills: Part of innovation management is consistent communication and regular collaboration, both of which require strong people skills. While you can put together an airtight innovation strategy without the help of others, it takes a village to execute this strategy. Because of this, innovation managers need to have strong people skills to handle the consistent collaboration, communication, and evaluation required.
- Critical Thinking: Innovating is important because it’s something that not everyone can do. Finding new ideas and implementing things that haven’t been done before requires a certain amount of critical thinking and creativity essential to success as an innovation manager.
- Communication: Being an innovation manager requires you to communicate your thoughts, goals, and objectives across a wide variety of teams and individuals. This includes stakeholders, company leaders, project managers, and everyone in between. In order to successfully implement an innovation strategy, you must be able to communicate positively with all of them.
- Risk Management: Part of implementing any innovation is taking on a certain amount of risk. Putting together an innovation strategy inherently incorporates some risk for the business, so innovation managers must have experience in risk management to optimize their chances for success.
If you’re looking to become an innovation manager, these skills and responsibilities are the best place to start to ensure you’re well-prepared for the job.