Innovation manager, innovator, innovation ambassador,... - who does what?
In the context of innovation, there are a number of positions whose conceptual delimitation is often quite unclear. What distinguishes an innovation consultant from an innovation manager or an inventor from an innovator? What is an innovation ambassador? The most important distinguishing features of the various terms are explained here in a brief overview.
The innovation manager is an enabler who creates the framework conditions in the company to enable innovation. He is an expert in the field of target-oriented innovation management methods and sets measures that ensure a quantitatively and qualitatively high innovation outcome. This includes the following task areas:
- Collection of ideas (creativity techniques)
- Definition of innovation targets
- Development of the innovation strategy
- Introduction and optimization of the innovation process
- Shaping the culture of innovation
The innovation manager is thus responsible for the creation of structures and processes, for the conviction of people and for the dissemination of the necessary innovation knowledge within the company. Implementation can be carried out by an internal innovation manager, but also with the help of an external partner such as LEAD Innovation.
The innovator generates ideas in a certain search field in order to satisfy a certain need that he either has himself or that he would like to fulfill for someone else into whom he feels empathetic. The innovator can be located both outside and inside a company.
- Innovators outside a companyare mostly people who are working on a solution to a problem that they have themselves but which is not yet solved by the market. One example is a group of young hippies who took part in the infamous Repack races in California and developed the first mountain bike. Such progressive users can be specifically included as LEAD User in innovation projects.
- Innovators within a companyare creative people who seek out and develop ideas and carry out innovation projects. It is often mistakenly assumed that this task falls to the innovation manager. However, the only creativity hidden behind the classic profile of an innovation manager is the combination of innovation management methods to achieve an innovation goal. The innovation manager himself is not the creative one - that is the task of the innovator.
In business practice, however, the role of the innovation manager partly also includes the role of the innovator and project manager. The innovation manager is then also responsible for identifying and successfully implementing innovations. You can read more about this in our article "The 12 possible roles of an innovation manager".
The inventor invents something because he feels an intrinsic impulse to do so, because he wants to apply for a patent and because he wants to earn money with it. These product innovations are then presented at the annual inventor fairs with the hope of achieving the big breakthrough. As a rule, however, the inventor does not carry out a benefit test. A fork that can be used to wind spaghetti electrically is an exciting thing - but will it also be bought?
This is exactly where the difference to the innovator lies: In contrast to the inventor, the innovator wants to invent something purposefully for himself or someone else. He focuses his efforts on a specific search field and a specific benefit. While the inventor gives free rein to his creativity, the innovator specifically develops a solution for a need or problem.
The innovation consultant has a high level of expertise in a specific area and advises companies on the content of a technology or a new market area for innovation projects. These are often trend topics (e.g. electromobility, convenience, aging population).
In contrast to the innovation manager, the following can be stated:
- The innovation consultant concentrates on a single innovation area, while the innovation manager usually deals with several innovations of different kinds in one or more companies.
- The innovation consultant is engaged for a temporary innovation project, while the innovation manager has a long-term orientation.
- The innovation manager is a moderator, manager and strategy developer, but not a consultant!
External innovation managers such as LEAD Innovation are therefore not innovation consultants, but innovation partners who work with their customers over the long term to create innovation.
The creative coach helps employees in meetings to break out of familiar thinking patterns. He is the initiator, often also the moderator and controls the creative process. The role of the creative coach can be assumed by an appropriately trained employee or an external specialist.
Innovation ambassadors are employees who specifically promote innovations in the company and steer the corporate culture in the right direction. They are familiar with the company's innovation strategy, pass on their knowledge to other employees, network and support them.
Bayer is a pioneer in this area. To keep pace with the pace of change, the company set up an agile network of voluntary ambassadors and trainers throughout the company in 2016. The Ambassadors are located at management level and have the task of networking employees and inspiring them to commit themselves to innovation.
Conclusion: Job profiles in the context of innovation
The innovation manager is the helmsman who steers the entire innovation process with appropriate innovation management methods. The creative part falls to the innovator, who purposefully searches for innovations that bring real added value. An innovation consultant or creative coach can be called in at short notice for innovation projects if expert know-how is required. In order to promote employee innovation, innovation ambassadors are increasingly used to inform, network and monitor the alignment of activities with the innovation strategy.
Born in the Salzkammergut. After working for Shell and Porsche, he concentrated on innovation management as a study assistant at the Innovation Department of the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. In 2003 he founded LEAD Innovation and manages the company as Managing Partner. Lectures at MIT, in front of companies like Google or NASA.