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Competencies of an Innovation Manager: these 7 are the prerequisites

The economy is turning faster and faster. Bringing ideas to market is becoming more and more important for companies. Innovation managers are therefore popular people. What this all can do, read this post. Here you can also download a sample of a job vacancy. If you are just looking for an innovation manager.

Innovation managers must understand the language of the research and development department as well as that of controlling, sales and marketing.

The profession itself is relatively new. As the one who turns ideas into innovations, the innovation manager is a central interface in the company. It must also understand the language of the R & D department as well as that of controlling and marketing. He must know about all the trends that are relevant to his employer or could become in the future. It must be able to put itself in the perspective of the customers. And he must be able to fight for an idea, even if the greatest resistance comes from his own company. Are there such wonders at all?

Innovation Manager: A person with many qualities

A precise analysis of the skills and knowledge required of an innovation manager helps to answer this question. Here is a list of the characteristics an innovation manager has to bring in any case:

  1. Organized: Your manager can plan, organize and carry out projects, keeping an eye on time, personnel and financial resources. The more precisely you follow your innovation project, the better the output. Moved appointments, incomplete to-do lists, or unrecorded logs are common reasons that a good idea will ultimately fail. That is why it is extremely important that your innovation manager is a good project manager.
  2. Goal-oriented: The goal of your innovation manager is innovation, the sum of the invention and the market success. The person must therefore have the train to the gate, as one is saying so well in the football language. The view on the whole must not be lost. The distortion in details also entails the danger of encountering barriers that seem insurmountable. The motto should be "Do not go, do not exist".
  3. Eloquent: As mentioned above, innovation managers are a central interface in the company. You have to speak the language of the various departments and of the customers, suppliers and partners. And this is as convincing as possible. In addition, an innovation project consists of many meetings, which an innovation manager has to moderate. Good speakers are therefore in demand.
  4. Multilanguage: Ideas richness, creativity and innovation are not familiar with any linguistic boundaries. English is the most important modern language of the world - its innovation manager should master them both in word and in writing. Also to be able to follow the international developments easily.
  5. Learning: The professionalism of an innovation manager consists of dealing with something new. A fast perception and learning ability is important. Innovation managers should be able to quickly acquire a voice. This means that they are capable of communicating with one another on an equal footing. It is not necessary to have detailed knowledge from all areas, but knowledge about the basic functional principles of a given area is already necessary.
  6. Curious: Innovation managers must recognize trends early. A healthy curiosity helps enormously. For this, the detection of new developments and the view of the company's own edge of the market become a joyous activity. And not part of the work that some of us want to have done between two as close as possible dates.
  7. Challenging: Innovation managers must not shy away from conflicts. They deal with changes. As is known, these lead to resistances. This starts with the position of innovation manager himself. Many other colleagues in the company will not know about this. After all, the company did not have an innovation manager for decades or even decades before. Why should it not be possible in the future? Innovation managers must therefore first be able to gain a place in the company's hacking system and to be able to dispose of conflicts. And, as an interface to almost every department, your innovation manager will meet colleagues with different opinions. Conflicts are thus pre-programmed. As far as they are professionally and objectively, they often pave the way for the new. And that is exactly what they want.

Innovation managers are located at the boss

If you have a matrix organization, this is not easy to recommend, because innovation usually takes place between the market and technology. So with a classic organizational form between R & D and marketing. Since in many companies the marketing is misunderstood as an 'advertising department' and R & D is mainly concerned with adapting the existing products according to customer requirements, you should consider using the innovation manager as a staff member of the management team. This means even more work for you, but it is ultimately the future of your company. The lady or gentleman should tell you directly.

External innovation managers are more flexible

Another way of bringing innovation directly to the boss is to use the services of an external innovation manager. For this, however, you do not have to call for a new position, but you must use the services of a suitable service provider. Keep in mind that external innovation managers need to bring other important soft skills.

An external innovation manager hardly knows your company and your employees. He must work together with a team whose members have often been acquainted with each other for years. An external innovation manager must understand the dynamics of this team in a very short time. He must recognize who has something to say about this team. He must be able to read between the lines. In short, he has to make it as soon as possible to be perceived by the team no longer as "foreign bodies".

Since an external innovation manager is active in many different economic sectors, he must be able to familiarize himself very quickly with the nature of an industry. He must be able to acquire knowledge even more quickly than an internal innovation manager. This is usually only concerned with the industry of its employer and some related fields. Of course, an external innovation manager makes the tools available to help you get an idea to market. Nevertheless, he must never give the impression that he is not well-versed in an industry. Because then you and your co-workers will be right to ask: "What does it teach me?"

Conclusion: competencies of an innovation manager: Let your innovation manager also be an innovation manager

As you can see, the list of requirements for an innovation manager is as long as versatile. A good basis for the activity is a completed study of the economics, usually with a focus on innovation. The position of the innovation manager also includes many small-scale research work or cold quotes to find the first customers and to get their opinions.

The role of the innovation manager is extremely exposed in the company. For this reason, you should also allow your innovation manager to act as an innovation manager. There are sometimes job advertisements that want to mix this position with others such as product or quality managers. This will not make you a pleasure to your innovation manager. Why? The handling of uncertainties and risks is an integral part of innovation managers' workplace, while project or quality managers move in established ways. If an employee has to do both, then he will tend to focus on the safe, ie the established. Simple, because it is easier to reach presentable goals. The employment with the uncertain new, which also encounters internal resistance, then fails.

For sure. An innovation manager can only count on a certain operating parameter. If your company is too small for your own innovation manager, use the services of an external engineer. He pays off in any case.


Jannik Böckenholt

As an expert for New Business Development, Jannik is your reliable companion for new commercial ventures. When it comes to the restructuring of innovation processes or the application of innovation methods, the learned project manager guides you to your objective step by step, while making sure there is fun along the way with his inspiring storytelling in the workshops he moderates.

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