5 questions as to whether you should fill the Innovation Manager position internally
An internal innovation manager forms the interface between your market departments on the one hand and the research and development department on the other. Even if innovations play a central role in your company: It is not always advisable to fill the position of innovation manager internally. Based on 5 criteria, this blog entry helps you to decide whether you are better advised with or without your own innovation manager.
What is an innovation manager?
If you ask four of your business partners for a description of an innovation manager position, you will most likely receive five different definitions. It is therefore important to clarify exactly what an innovation manager is. Let's take a quick look into the past:
The company suggestion system (BVW) and also the continuous improvement process (CIP) are tools that companies have been using for a long time to further develop processes, to produce fewer errors and fewer rejects. The inputs and ideas of the employees were usually collected by the quality manager. The aim of this activity was to use colleagues' inputs to improve quality or save costs in production.
A concept that must fail: Quality managers with innovation agendas
When the companies began to manage their innovation activities more professionally, they relaxed the quality manager. Because with him already existed a person who was very good at collecting and arranging ideas. So the management entrusted the quality manager with the agendas of innovation management.
However, this - well-intentioned - management decision turns out to be completely wrong again and again. Why? The goal of the quality manager is to make as few mistakes as possible. Mostly people are concerned with quality management, who work extremely precisely, almost pedantically, like accountants or tax consultants.
Innovation managers must work with mistakes
For the management of innovations, the urge to do nothing wrong is counterproductive. Because innovations are always associated with failures. Mistakes must inevitably be made in order to learn from them and to get on the right track.
James Dyson developed exactly 5,127 prototypes of his bagless vacuum cleaner within five years. Such a high effort, which ultimately led to a real signature innovation, can only be justified with the direct help of the management. Therefore: settle the position of innovation manager as a staff position directly with the management.
In the case of Dyson, this was not necessary because the boss himself was the inventor. However, Dyson is not an innovation manager. While creative people like Dyson focus on developing ideas, innovation managers focus on bringing new ideas to market.
Innovation management is not compatible with other activities
This is an extremely diverse and challenging task, which often has to be mastered against the resistance of one's own staff. Therefore, you should not overload the position of innovation manager with further tasks. For example, if you assign the agendas Innovation Management plus Project Management to a person, you will certainly be dissatisfied with the output:
While uncertainties and risks determine the day-to-day work of innovation managers, project managers are usually on established paths. An employee who has to do both will always concentrate on the established because he knows how to achieve success. However, success in dealing with the new is uncertain. If you mix the two functions, you will at best have a good project manager who only half-heartedly deals with innovations if his other job gives him time to do so. One thing is certain: this is not how you bring innovations to market.
These 5 criteria will help you to decide: hire or outsource
To do just that, it is not absolutely necessary to employ people who are exclusively concerned with innovation management. This can be a permanent employee or an external service provider. These five criteria can help you make your decision:
Is your company large enough?
If your company employs more than 5,000 people, it is always worth having your own innovation management employee. However, you may understand the number of employees mentioned only as a guideline. It also depends on how large your product variety is and in which industry you are active. If the life cycle of the products is short, it may well be that an innovation manager of one's own pays off even for smaller companies.
How much does an innovation manager cost?
To check this, personnel costs are important for an innovation manager. Gross annual salaries of 31,000 euros are also common in Austria for beginners. The gross basic salary for innovation managers with experience is around 58,000 euros per year. But remember: the job profile of innovation manager has become very popular in recent years. Many business universities, but also technical universities and universities of applied sciences offer corresponding courses of study. So there are many trained innovation managers. However, the job description and the contents of the completed training can differ greatly from practice. Ask yourself the following question: If your innovation manager has the task of finding a successor for your cash cow, which generates half of your sales, then you should also measure your salary accordingly.
Does an innovation manager fit into your corporate culture?
People are generally uncertain about change. New things always evoke fears and resistance. If you run a company where such resistance is relatively strong, you should not fill the Innovation Manager position internally. Because this would only be wiped out in the internal power struggle of the individual departments and employees. In such a situation it is better to use the services of an external innovation manager. The latter is only obliged to the managing director. Since an external service provider is not part of the company's internal system, he will also report any internal resistance to you without any value.
How well do the marketing and development departments communicate with each other?
According to the US management pioneer with Viennese roots, Peter F. Drucker, a company has only two core tasks: Marketing and innovation. Because only these would create new customers. All other departments would only be costs. If there is active, appreciative and fruitful communication between your marketing and your research and development department, this can make an innovation manager superfluous. This is the interface between the two departments. In practice, however, the opposite is usually the case. The engineers in the R&D department only feel disturbed by the marketing staff and want to invent things in peace. The marketing people describe their R&D people as strangers to the world in the ivory tower, who have no idea of customer needs. If that's the case, we need an external.
Will your own innovation manager have enough to do?
If you want to fill the Innovation Manager position fully, you should also be sure that this person is working to capacity. If you only pursue a few innovation projects a year, your employee is probably understretched. But beware of assigning other tasks to a person besides innovation management. The role as an interface between the market departments (marketing, sales) and the research and development department can hardly be combined with other tasks. If there is too little to do, then you would rather do without an internal innovation manager and work together with an external service provider.
If you want to strategically deal with developing and launching something new on the market, then you need an innovation manager. An example of a car manufacturer's flop shows how important this position can be. Audi's engineers may have achieved a technical feat with the A2, which went into mass production in 1999. This model consumed very little fuel due to its completely new lightweight construction, which is otherwise only used in the luxury class, and the low CW value. However, the car manufacturer made a serious mistake in marketing the model: they tried to market it as an Audi for female drivers. However, this target group was hardly interested in the inner technical values of the Audi dwarf. The model flopped. This would probably not have happened with an innovation manager who had successfully fulfilled his role as an interface between marketing and R&D. No matter whether this innovation manager would have been part of the Audi workforce or whether he would have worked as an external service provider.
Born and raised in Vienna. For more than 6 years she has been in charge of Business Development at LEAD Innovation with the functions marketing, sales and communication.