Innovation leaders are creative visionaries who have big ideas and, most importantly, can motivate people around them to turn those ideas into reality. An innovative leader does not even need to be the person who creates the concept behind an innovation. Instead, the most effective innovation leaders could vividly describe their future vision. As one respondent noted about his boss: “She excelled at painting a clear picture of the destination while we worked to figure out how to get there.”
The following 5 considerations will help you learn more about how they do what they do.
1: Strategy Leaders’ Traits
Innovation leaders are highly customer-centric. They seek to get inside the customer’s mind. They network with clients and ask constant questions about their needs and wants. They are loyal to doing what’s suitable for the organization and customers. Pleasing the boss or some other higher-level executive often takes a back seat to doing the right thing for the project or the company.
Innovation and strategy leaders magnify the voice of the customer. These leaders believe that the best and most innovative ideas bubble up from underneath. They strive to create a culture that uncorks good ideas from the first level of the organization. They are often described as optimistic, energetic, and always receptive to new ideas.
These leaders believe in speed. They think experiments and rapid prototypes are preferred to lengthy studies by large committees. They inspire and motivate through action.
2: Roles and Responsibilities
You may recognize a Strategy Leader I one of these roles:
- Chief Innovation Officer (CINO)
- Chief Digital Officer (CDO)
- Director of Strategy
- Director of Innovation
- Research and Development (R&D) Director
- Director of Digital Transformation
- Innovation Manager
Some of their responsibilities naturally include:
- Build an idea management process to gather and evaluate feedback from customers, team members, and stakeholders
- Lead innovation projects and run pilot programs
- Secure funding to pursue new ideas for products and services
- Idea generation (Ideation); Innovation
- Concept development and testing; focus groups
- Planning and managing the launch and commercialization of the product
- Designing and engineering the product packaging (and creation)
- Understanding trends
- Managing category performance
- Tracking competitor capabilities
- Identify and prioritize opportunities for business transformation
- Establish and track innovation KPIs, such as new customers or ideas submitted
3: Gain Points
Here is why Strategy Leaders are an added advantage in an organization. They:
- Support business units in new product and service initiatives. This means acting as a methodology expert and facilitator for the most critical innovation teams across the company, supporting them in “raising the bar” of their aspirations. Training other managers to perform these roles also allows them to support innovation in business units.
- Drive New Growth Opportunities – Identify, prioritize, develop, and launch new products, services, and business models
- Build and Grow Innovation Capabilities – Create new organizational capabilities, including technical and people-driven, that ensure a steady stream of innovations
- Champion Innovation – Evangelize innovation internally and externally to influence the brand in the market and create pull for creative talent
- Influence new product vs. product enhancements – different requirements for ROI, speed to market, etc.
- Drive innovation and other disruptive technology strategies, including products, services, and processes.
- Assess industry and community market trends, leading to the generation of innovative ideas.
- Recognize promising ideas and finds a way to introduce them into plans and discard ideas that are ineffective, costly, or beyond the scope of the company’s mission or abilities to develop.
- Conduct due diligence on partners’ capabilities and evaluate the various alternatives for the venture, adoption, and growth.
4: Pain Points
A Strategy Leader can deal with some of the following pain points:
- The CEO is not a champion of innovation.
- The organization’s culture (the Top 3 issues are often communication, empowerment, and risk aversion)
- A reactive, short-term culture where the “urgent” beats the “important.”
- In large corporations, the lack of a typical Innovation Process
- Other functional areas do not see innovation as their responsibility
- Innovation strategy lacking from the outset
- Agile transformation is coming first (hoping to fix everything magically)
- Managerial support urgency for radical innovation
- Need for disruptive business model innovation capabilities
- New business creation and support in structuring the organization
- A gap between knowing what to do and doing it
- Shift towards the beginning and end stages of the innovation funnel
5. Business Drivers and Role Map
Role map here
6: Typical Tasks and Activities
Some of the tasks and activities they actually perform involve:
- Creating an innovation strategy that is understood and endorsed by key stakeholders, including executive leadership, employees, customers, and partners
- Building a well-balanced innovation portfolio and roadmap that drives investments & top-line growth
- Ensuring the company is successful in taking its innovations to market in a timely and scalable way
- Uses innovation to differentiate the company in the market, provide unique value to customers and help build long-term relationships with customers
- Evangelizes innovation so the company is viewed as innovative, visionary, and a market leader by customers, industry groups, and the media.
- We are meeting with stakeholders at different levels to identify areas of innovation and growth.
- Identifying innovation trends and business opportunities within the market
- Leading a team to enhance the innovative potential of the business
- Developing, strategizing, and planning new interventions that will drive innovation
- Creating and overseeing a comprehensive long-term innovation strategy for the company
- Engaging with internal and external stakeholders to enhance innovative thinking around the company
- Expanding on the organization’s long-term innovative capabilities
- Advising management on yearly, medium-term, long-term, and future innovation goals
- Presenting new ideas and approaches to high-level stakeholders
- Reporting on and adapting innovative interventions within the company, as required
- Getting suppliers they like on the approved supplier list from purchasing/procurement – suppliers need to bring something engaging/creative for product development to “fight” for approval
Finally, consider asking the following questions:
- What problems are the business units complaining about?
- How do you keep track of or measure your business impact?