Judy Anderson5 June 2017

Innovation Managers are like truffles

Stinky, and hard to find. Innovation Managers don’t always smell like gourmet mushrooms, but they are rare.

Great Innovation Managers are rare, because there are specific capabilities and preferences required to help drive an organisation’s innovation efforts forward. In my time at Inventium, I have met dozens of Innovation Managers across four continents, and can tell you that if you’ve got the wrong person in the role between senior leadership and people at the coal face – you’re in trouble.


When recruiting for an Innovation Manager, most organisations will list ‘previous Innovation Management experience’ as a requirement for the role. But some of the most successful Innovation Managers I have worked with have never considered themselves an innovation professional. They were successful in their role not because of their expertise in innovation, but because of their experience in parallel roles such as project management, change management, HR or communication.

So if you’re trying to sniff out a great Innovation Manager, or are already in an Innovation Management role, check out my top five must haves for this role:

  1. Facilitate the innovation process for others. Often people who are attracted to being an Innovation Manager are people who like to innovate themselves. But the best innovation managers are skilled at encouraging others to uncover opportunities for innovation, generate breakthrough ideas and experiment with customers.
  2. Project Management is their jam. Ensuring that an organisation delivers on its strategic innovation objectives isn’t something to decentralise. Keeping people and projects accountable to activity, milestones and objectives is a critical element of innovation program management.
  3. They are more influential than James Corden in “Carpool Karaoke”. Great Innovation Managers are able to help people feel comfortable with taking the necessary risks to test breakthrough or disruptive innovations.
  4. They work around red tape. The processes and systems set up for managing an organisation’s core products and services will not be universally compatible for all new innovations. So having the ability to make it work to get new innovations to market is key.
  5. Roadblocks become speed boosts. No matter what you’re working on, there will always be someone with a different view. Successful Innovation Managers are able to involve would be ‘detractors’ in the process, and turn them into the biggest advocates.

I’d love to hear your experiences recruiting or being an Innovation Manager. You can share your comments and ideas @fasttrackjudy, Inventium’s LinkedIn page or directly via judy@inventium.com.au. For now, have a great week!


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