15 Challenging & Conflict-Ridden Jobs Innovation Execs Must Do

By Scott Kirsner |  March 30, 2015

Few things are tougher than being an innovation leader — whether you work in product development, strategy, R&D, or a dedicated innovation team.  Based on conversations with individuals in these roles, we compiled a list of 15 challenging and conflict-ridden jobs that most commonly face innovation leaders in large organizations.

Did we miss any? Post a comment below.

  1. Identify emerging opportunities, technologies, and market dynamics that the CEO should care about, but doesn’t yet.
  2. Put resources toward exploring emerging opportunities, technologies, and market dynamics that the CEO does care about.
  3. Understand tomorrow’s customers — the people who will drive future revenue growth for the company — better than anyone else in the company.
  4. Become known as the fastest place to get anything prototyped and tested anywhere in the organization.
  5. Serve as the public face of innovation for your company at conferences, local events, and trade shows (and don’t come off like a Neanderthal).
  6. Develop a set of metrics, aligned with the executive leadership team, that will show you are moving the needle in ways that matter to them.
  7. Make sure your team survives long enough for those metrics to build into something substantial.
  8. Solve problems or fill gaps for the business units or product teams.
  9. But don’t let that distract you from working on truly transformational opportunities that may threaten current sources of revenue, or relationships with customers/distributors/partners.
  10. Attract more innovators to your company — including people who would never ordinarily consider working for it.
  11. Define innovation in a way that everyone understands what you’re trying to achieve, and that enables the right kind of conversations across disparate divisions (like IT and sales).
  12. Identify and train innovation advocates/catalysts/allies throughout the organization.
  13. Identify and avoid innovation naysayers throughout the organization (or can they be won over?)
  14. Be a helpful and easy-to-work with point of contact for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and academic researchers who want to figure out how they can collaborate with you.
  15. Know when to kill projects that aren’t going to move the dial or have an impact — while still keeping the project owners/idea submitters engaged in future innovation efforts.