What are the key responsibilities and tasks of an innovation manager?

Innovation needs dedicated support and ongoing engagement, like HR, Marketing, Accounting, or Engineering. Dive into the vital roles of innovation teams and managers, how they build structures for innovation, and the key traits that make a successful innovation leader. Let's make innovation an everyday priority!

Innovation Management
Leonardo Varella-Cid
Leonardo Varella-Cid
Co-Founder @ InnovationCast

What are innovation managers' and innovation management teams' key responsibilities and tasks?

Successful innovation demands dedicated support and continuous engagement. Like traditional corporate functions such as Human Resources, Knowledge Management, Marketing, and Communications, innovation activities should be supported by innovation management teams and led by a capable manager.

In this article, you'll learn about innovation teams' and managers' tasks and responsibilities and how they work together to build an organizational structure capable of supporting multiple innovation initiatives.

Innovation management teams: tasks and responsibilities

To evolve your business, you must continually seek new innovative opportunities. Amazon, for example, evolved from "the world's biggest online bookstore" to a grocery delivery service, television series producer, and leader in cloud computing in just 22 years. Such rapid progress was possible because Amazon made innovation a corporate-wide initiative supported by a dedicated network of innovators.

Successful innovation requires support, organization, and continuous engagement. Generally speaking, it's the job of your innovation management team to create strong foundations, provide ongoing support, continuously improve practices and monitor the progress and outcomes of your innovation activities.

Your innovation team provides a structure that enables your innovation system to function to its maximum potential and helps contributors engage with your innovation efforts. To understand more about the role of innovation management teams, let's look closer at the key tasks and responsibilities.

Community management

Open innovation provides insight from an extended network of contributors, including customers, employees, partners, and sister organizations. It's the responsibility of an innovation management team to manage these communities by communicating the innovation expectations and explaining how they contribute to the overall strategy.

With several innovation communities operating simultaneously, innovation management teams must ensure everybody has a satisfactory and consistent experience. When everyone is aligned with your innovation expectations, you can make bigger strides toward completing your short and long-term goals.

Evolve innovation practices and capabilities

It's a common misconception that innovators are born, not taught. In reality, innovation is a trainable muscle like any other. Think of your innovation management team as a personal trainer, offering innovation communities exercises, nutrition, and motivation to strengthen their innovation muscles.

Like most skills, innovation is best learned by doing. Members will learn new skills and grow in confidence as a byproduct of participation. But innovation competencies can be developed quicker by onboarding new members correctly and facilitating further learning with content, physical and online events, and workshops.

The way you manage innovation today should not be the same as tomorrow. If that were the case, it would mean you weren't learning. You must be eager to learn. Your innovation management team should continually locate and develop your member's innovation skills.

Provide orientation and coaching

Innovation management teams offer orientation, support, and coaching to the managers of the distributed communities regarding their specific innovation challenges. They'll also provide support to the teams that will be working on innovation opportunities and projects.

Implement innovation policies and governance

Any strategy must adhere to a predetermined set of rules for individuals to operate within the same boundaries. One of the key responsibilities of innovation management teams is ensuring that participation guidelines and policies are respected. Like your innovation strategy, policies and guidelines will evolve and improve over time.

Monitor progress and the return on innovation

The innovation management team must determine if you're making progress on your innovation opportunities and projects. To do this, the team will monitor the innovation pipeline closely to determine what's working and what isn't. By keeping a finger on the pulse, your team can provide assistance when people get stuck, keep track of failures and successes and use this information to improve future ventures.

But this vigilance doesn't stop here. Efficient processes are great, but are you achieving your primary goals? Are you creating value, growth, and prosperity through innovation? To align your efforts with your long-term targets, your innovation management team must continuously track any positive impact and calculate its value.

Predetermining your definition of success will help you to assess your innovation efforts and provide contributors with a clear target.

What are the tasks of an innovation manager?

Involving more contributors in your innovation strategy does not mean your Innovation team won't need strong leadership and the sponsorship and continuous engagement of managerial and executive personnel.

Distributing responsibilities across several tiers of your corporate hierarchy is a fundamental concept of open innovation, allowing managers and executives to step back from micromanaging tasks and step into overseeing processes from a wider perspective.

But what are the key responsibilities and tasks of innovation managers?

An innovation manager's job is to lead the innovation strategy by performing three basic functions:

  • Allocating and setting up teams

  • Managing processes and monitoring progress

  • Expanding innovation capabilities and transferring them to the corporate culture

Allocating and setting up teams

Innovation strategies consist of a balanced portfolio of projects focused on various aspects such as business model innovation, network innovation, product system innovation, and more. To bring each project to completion, a dedicated process—made up of a series of tasks—must be performed. It's the innovation manager's job to allocate and set up the teams responsible for carrying out these tasks.

This duty involves a range of supervisory activities, including selection, training, evaluation, counseling, and recommendation for dismissal. As well as setting up hands-on innovation teams, the innovation manager might also be responsible for obtaining support from internal stakeholders and business leaders.

Managing processes and monitoring progress

Innovation shouldn't hinge on chance. It should be strategic and diverse, comprised of numerous well-defined initiatives that target all areas of innovation simultaneously. To coordinate such a comprehensive array of activities, an innovation manager is appointed to ensure timely and successful innovation by incorporating comprehensive planning and scheduling efforts.

By stepping away from the micromanagement of daily processes, innovation managers can tune in to the challenges occurring throughout the organization. These could be pain points faced by your customers or daily grievances afflicting your employees. Managers can then make data-driven decisions based on the value offering. Innovation managers will weigh the risk against the reward and make decisions based on key performance indicators and metrics.

As projects reach completion, innovation managers can determine what worked well and what didn't. This stage of the process is completed through careful evaluation using data collection and analysis. These findings will be reported to key stakeholders and used to improve future innovation initiatives.

Expanding innovation capabilities and transferring them to the corporate culture

Innovation is never finished. And to keep up with the relentless threat of competition, innovation managers must spearhead the expansion of their innovation capabilities and embed them within the fabric of the organization.

This is achieved by developing and maintaining relationships with innovation communities, providing support when needed, and educating individuals on new solutions, processes, and innovations.

As leaders, innovation managers must promote the best practices and lead by example. By serving as a coach and mentor, they can create a safe space for ideation and cultivate a productive innovation culture that celebrates creativity and encourages diversity of thought.

What are the key characteristics of a good innovation manager?

The responsibilities of an innovation manager are centered around a single purpose: to lead the research into strategic future business opportunities. But as we've learned, it's an in-depth role that demands numerous characteristics. Below are some of the key characteristics of a good innovation manager.

  • Customer-focused: Makes decisions based on the expectations and requirements of the customer; understands the wants, needs, and aspirations of the customer and uses this information to guide improvements to products and services; makes moves to understand the customer on a deeper level and gain their trust and respect.

  • Highly organized: Is capable of orchestrating multiple simultaneous innovation initiatives; understands the importance of key policies, practices, and procedures; knows how to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibility.

  • Process-driven: Dedicated to optimizing processes; can identify bottlenecks and faults and implement solutions using actionable roadmaps; knows how to consolidate and separate different tasks within a workflow; knows what to measure and how to measure it; can present results supported by data; can extract the more potential from fewer resources.

  • Interpersonal skills: Can build a rapport with people from all kinds of backgrounds; comfortably manages professional relationships; talented communicator; can diffuse high-tension situations with confidence and composure.

  • Strategic mindset: Can see beyond daily processes to identify emerging opportunities early; can anticipate potential problems and devise effective solutions; Can maintain a broad perspective (doesn't get tunnel vision); Can explain methodologies and paint pictures of likelihoods; Knows when and when not to take risks.

  • Creative tendencies: Flourishes in creative environments; knows how to turn concepts into tangible results; can manage a creative process and extract creative potential from others; can facilitate effective brainstorming sessions; Can hypothesize how creative ideas might be received by users or customers.

The responsibility of innovation managers and innovation management teams

The mistake many organizations make is making innovation an "end of the day" activity. But to stay relevant in today's highly-competitive marketplace, organizations need to innovate strategically, continuously, and quickly. Something that can only be achieved by making innovation a dedicated corporate function and assigning innovation teams and managers to build the organizational capability required to innovate.

Accelerate innovation with innovation management software

InnovationCast is a collaborative innovation management software that helps companies engage people to co-create ideas and bring them to life. Our easy-to-use, systematic process helps you organize your ideas and implement them quickly and easily.

If you're ready to accelerate your innovation potential today, get in touch to schedule a demo.