Open Innovation Manager 2.0

The innovation manager of the future

Recently, I attended the International Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM) Innovation Conference in Budapest, Hungary. I presented a paper and ran a discussion on creative leadership, and also attended a workshop on “Constructing the Open Innovation Manager: Renaissance 2.0”. In this workshop, innovation experts from both academia and industry explored the knowledge and skill set that the next generation of innovation managers will need in order to successfully operate.

Open Innovation Manager, version 2.0

The ISPIM organizes three innovation conferences each year where innovation experts meet to exchange insights from academic research and business. Besides keynotes, paper presentations and panel discussions, the conferences offer workshops where academics and others in the innovation field discuss, among other things, future developments in innovation management.

One of this year’s workshops investigated the scope of knowledge, skills and expertise that an “Open Innovation Manager 2.0” (i.e., one who manages innovation in a modern, more collaborative and open environment) should possess. The group that I worked with separated the knowledge needed by a modern innovation manager into specialized and general areas. The specialized knowledge needed by innovation managers includes:

  • the internal innovation procedures and the innovation management system of their firm;
  • the technology-based platforms needed to support idea & innovation pipeline management, as well as open innovation platforms;
  • the vast and steadily growing pool of innovation methods and tools;
  • the different types of intellectual property (IP);
  • the management, valuation and monetization of a firm’s IP portfolio; and
  • the ability and willingness to learn and adapt to new forms of and approaches to intellectual property in the future, a still-ambiguous phenomenon that our group dubbed “IP 2.0”.

The general knowledge needed by an “Open Innovation Manager 2.0” includes a vastly wider repertoire of skills and experience. In the past, innovation managers have focused mostly on understanding and leveraging internal knowledge and network contacts, but today’s more open innovation requires also connecting with external knowledge and network partners. Innovation managers 2.0 need:

  • the ability to track emerging future technologies and trends;
  • a talent for recognizing and seizing upon new business opportunities; and
  • the networking and communication skills needed to reach out to both internal and external partners in innovation.

From innovation manager to innovation management team

At this point, I moved the discussion to the idea that in business and innovation, people’s actions and innovation styles can be categorized, and that those categories can help in innovation management. For instance, an ideal candidate for a corporate innovation manager is someone who is balanced between theory and systems orientations. Such people excel in administrative roles that require a focus on performance as well as on quality and internal procedures. The “innovation manager 2.0” needs to be a jack-of-all-trades, but people who are good at administration tend to be poor networkers, and vice versa. A way to resolve this is to hire an all-rounder for the position who can perform well in many different areas and is able to keep many balls in the air. However, the jack-of-all-trades being also a master of none, they are a clear second choice to the balanced theory and systems person.

A better solution to resolve the dilemma can be to create an “open innovation manager team 2.0” comprising four people with complementary know-how and skills, each of whom takes part of the roles and responsibilities of a modern innovation manager:

  • Firstly, a “technocrat” innovation manager in a more traditional internal role administers the corporate innovation system and processes.
  • Secondly, a “technology & trend scout” who monitors the evolving future of the industry or category and keeps track of and maps out relevant future trends related to new technologies, concepts and social phenomena. This person balances orientations towards both theories and ideas. These smart, tech-savvy big-picture thinkers are good at spotting evolving trends, thanks to having their heads high up in the clouds.
  • Thirdly, an “opportunity spotter” who recognizes market changes and related opportunities earlier than anybody else, and is able to come up with ideas on how to seize upon these identified innovation opportunities.
  • Fourthly and finally, a “connector” is a charismatic person with a vast internal, external and virtual network of contacts and a natural talent for spreading the word about an idea.

It can be difficult to find people to fill the role of “innovation manager 2.0”, but don’t let that difficulty dissuade you. Failing to do this will lead to failure to innovate, and that will become, simply, failure.

Egilogue: Thinkergy can help you to identify suitable candidates for the role of “innovation manager 2.0” with the help of TIPS, the innovation people profiling system that I have created. TIPS maintains that in business and innovation, people’s actions are driven by one or more of four base energies (theories, ideas, people, systems) and four corresponding styles of how people prefer to think, work, interact with each other, and live.

Among the 11 resulting innovator profiles that TIPS distinguishes, the TIPS profile of a “Technocrat” is the ideal candidate for a corporate innovation manager in a traditional sense. But how about going forward? If you interpret the “innovation manager 2.0” using a team-approach instead of an individual, then you should have three other profiles on your team aside of a “Technocrat”. These additional players are:

  • A “Conceptualizer” who takes care of monitoring and mapping technologies and future trends;
  • An “Ideator” who naturally easy spots business opportunities while going with the flow of change; and
  • A “Promoter” who connects ideas with people and people with ideas.

However, should you prefer an individual solution, then TIPS can help you to find a suitable “All-Rounder”, who as “jack-of-all-trade innovation manager” will do their best to keep all balls up in the air. Contact us if you like to learn more about TIPS and to find out when our TIPS online test will be available.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2015. This article is published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 9 July 2015.