Conversations with Innovators - Part 6

Crafting the innovation dream team: an exploration of key skillsets in corporate innovation departments

In Part 6 of Conversations with Innovators we’re reporting back on what we’re seeing as the skillsets needed to build a Dream Team for an internal innovation capability.

And we’ve ranked them.

The ranking is based on what we’re hearing, that innovation is a multidisciplinary endeavour, and certain roles are more pivotal and requiring a broader range of skills than others in steering the innovation journey.

The skills have been ranked based on their importance, considering their contributions to the innovation process.

Some context

The large corporations we talk to are acutely aware of the role that innovation plays in ensuring growth, adaptability, finding efficiencies and a competitive edge.

In pursuit of this these organisations have been increasingly establishing dedicated innovation departments. The dream team within these departments comprises a range of skillsets, experiences, and perspectives, each contributing to the corporate journey of innovation.

1. Visionary Leadership

At the top of the pile is visionary leadership.

This role is paramount for shaping the strategic direction of the innovation department. Visionary leaders are not just setting the vision but are also motivating and aligning the team to achieve innovation goals.

Without leadership, innovation efforts can quickly devolve into aimless experimentation. 

The leader’s ability to communicate a compelling vision can inspire the department to work cohesively toward a common objective.

2. Cross-Disciplinary Expertise

The ability to draw knowledge from diverse fields is the backbone of innovation.

Cross-disciplinary experts, such as those versed in technology, marketing, design, finance, and operations, are bringing together a broad spectrum of skills that are invaluable for addressing the challenges that innovation initiatives often encounter.

The integration of knowledge from these different domains significantly enhances the innovation process.

3. Data Scientists and Analysts

Data-driven decision-making ranks highly with those we’ve spoken to, seeing data scientists and analysts occupying a pivotal role.

Expertise in extracting insights from vast datasets, identifying trends, and quantifying success provides a foundational framework for innovation efforts.

Data-driven choices enable informed decisions that maximize the impact of innovation projects.

4. Project Managers

These managers play a key role in keeping innovation projects organized and on track.

Coordinating teams, allocating resources, and ensuring timely execution is essential for transforming ideas into outcomes. Project managers are the bridge between creative thinking and implementation, ensuring that ideas are translated into tangible results within a specified timeframe and budget.

5. Trend Forecasters

Staying ahead of market trends is important.

Trend forecasters have the ability to track (and with the right data can anticipate) shifts in consumer behaviour, emerging technologies, and industry changes.

These insights provide the innovation department with information to adapt and capitalize on opportunities in an evolving marketplace.

6. User Experience (UX) Designers

User-centered design plays a role in successful innovation. UX designers are responsible for creating products or services that are functional and aligned with customer needs.

Facets of design thinking is instrumental in creating solutions that resonate with the target audience. UX designers transform ideas into tangible experiences that align with customer preferences.

7. Creative Thinkers

Creative thinkers are being tasked with bringing concepts to life, alternative perspectives, unconventional thinking and experience.

While their role is important, our clients tell us that their impact often depends on the support and guidance of other team members. Creative thinkers ideate and brainstorm effectively, but the implementation and practical refinement of these ideas depend on the collaborative efforts of the entire team.

8. Prototyping and R&D Specialists

New and different requires the development of prototypes and active research and development (R&D) activities.

These specialists translate abstract concepts into tangible products or services, often in the early stages, to test viability and refine the final product.

Their role is important yet may not be as encompassing as other roles in the innovation process.

9. Legal and Compliance Experts

Innovation requires navigating through the legal and regulatory landscape.

These resources are engaging in risk mitigation and ensuring that innovation initiatives comply with relevant regulations.

However, their influence on the overall innovation process is often more reactive, focused on avoiding legal pitfalls rather than actively driving innovation.=

10. Continuous Learners

Innovation teams are continually pursuing content and learning on trends, technologies, and methodologies within their respective domains.

These team members often take responsibility for their own professional development. 

While this skillset is critical it does not represent a specific role within the innovation department and is distributed among all team members.

It's complicated...

From what we’ve seen and hear establishing a dream team in an innovation department is a complex and multifaceted endeavour.

Our ranking underlines the varying levels of importance of each role, emphasizing the significance of leadership, cross-disciplinary expertise, data-driven decision-making, and efficient project management.

A well-balanced team with a strong emphasis on these foundational roles is more likely to thrive in the challenging landscape of corporate innovation.

The innovators that we speak to understand the need for diverse skillsets and their relative importance as they navigate the innovation pathway.