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.
- Identify emerging opportunities, technologies, and market dynamics that the CEO should care about, but doesn’t yet.
- Put resources toward exploring emerging opportunities, technologies, and market dynamics that the CEO does care about.
- Understand tomorrow’s customers — the people who will drive future revenue growth for the company — better than anyone else in the company.
- Become known as the fastest place to get anything prototyped and tested anywhere in the organization.
- 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).
- 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.
- Make sure your team survives long enough for those metrics to build into something substantial.
- Solve problems or fill gaps for the business units or product teams.
- 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.
- Attract more innovators to your company — including people who would never ordinarily consider working for it.
- 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).
- Identify and train innovation advocates/catalysts/allies throughout the organization.
- Identify and avoid innovation naysayers throughout the organization (or can they be won over?)
- 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.
- 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.