Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Innovation Roles

So let's say you've decided to introduce more innovation into your organization. In some cases, this will occur naturally, as innovative people will create ideas. In some cases, the culture or organization may discourage change and new ideas, so you may need to sponsor and encourage innovation for it to succeed.

In either case, you'll need to think about the roles and capabilities necessary for innovation to succeed. Note I did not say begin - but to succeed over the long run. I started to title this post the tinker, tailor, candlestick maker, because it may seem that you'll need all those skills available when you are done.

First, let's start with the obvious skills, capabilities and roles:

  • Someone or some teams to identify opportunities, trends, unmet needs
  • Someone to generate ideas specific to those opportunities trends and needs
  • Someone to capture those ideas
  • Someone to evaluate those ideas
  • Some team to sign off on the ideas and agree to fund them
Most organizations will assume you can stop there. I'll add a few more roles and capabilities that you'll agree are necessary - the only consideration is timing.

In my pantheon, I'll want to add to the above:

  • Someone from corporate communications - since what we'll do effects the organization and the folks need to know what's happening and whether or not it has management buy-in
  • Someone from Human Resources - to ensure people are prepared, trained and compensated in a manner that supports innovation
  • Someone from Legal or Intellectual Property - to review the ideas and identify knowledge or information that can or should be protected
  • Someone from IT or who is comfortable managing information - as the number of people involved increases or the number of ideas increase, you'll need a set of databases to capture and manage the information
  • Someone with process definition and management skills - to help define and refine the innovation processes
  • An interested, involved senior executive - this is what provides the motivation and the ability to take these risks

You don't need all of these skills at once, but they can trip you up if you don't put the capabilities in place well before you need them. In a large firm, good communication is essential, and without a corporate communications person on board, your initiative may struggle. You don't need systems and databases immediately, but in many cases after three or four ideation sessions or requests for ideas, you'll have more data than you can manage in a spreadsheet.

The trick isn't knowing what skills and capabilities you need - any good innovation consulting firm can identify thoses - it's knowing when and how to bring those skills to bear that matters most.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 2:44 PM

7 Comments:

Blogger Julia Styles said...

Jeff, I really liked this blog post. It put innovation to concrete terms by identifying key players.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Rai said...

I liked the simplicity with which you have put the variety of skills required to put an innovative idea into the action sphere. Thanks
Manju Rai

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