What you need to be successful in your new innovation role

Stefan Lindegaard, an innovation guru, recently did a survey entitled “The people side of innovation” (58 respondents, mostly from large companies). Among other things he focused on three aspects:

  • What are the most important personal qualifications for people working with innovation?
  • What should leaders do to motivate their employees to become more innovative and help create a better culture for innovation?
  • Are intrapreneurship programs relevant for upgrading corporate innovation capabilities?

These questions are so interesting and insightful we could spend years discussing them but let’s just focus on the first one.

According to Stefan’s survey results, you should be happy if you were or will be appointed to an innovation role if you are passionate for work, persistent, have the ability to deal with uncertainty, and have resistance within an organization.

Why these results and why are they not a surprise? Innovation is usually a support area, being a second, third or even a forth or fifth priority for many enterprises. Considering it is already difficult to make the “monster” (the enterprise) move when talking about core competencies, imagine how much more difficult it is when the subject is innovation.

Resistance to change, lack of inertia, and/or frontal opposition from others is the day-to-day reality when dealing with corporate innovation. Therefore, just like a salesperson, people in innovation must be persistent to deal with the barriers that will pop-up at every corner. The person should be passionate on the subject (and for work in general) to self-motivate themselves after each “no” they get.

Uncertainty is intrinsic to innovation, not only in the innovation process itself but also because it creates uncertainty with things related to it. If the innovation program does not bring results as expected in the short-run there is a tendency to start questioning it and those in charge of the program. Only someone who can deal with this uncertainty internally will be able to convince “detractors” in the long-run.

Summarizing, if you were or will be appointed to an innovation role you should definitely work on the above characteristics if you want to improve your chances of long-term success.

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