Blog post

To be a Successful Innovation Manager: Get Out of Your Own Way!

One of the biggest barriers to running a successful open innovation platform is the manager.

Say what?

That’s right! Most of the time, program managers get stuck on the minutiae and are too focused on programmatic details that delay the platform launch, or just take time away from what really matters. Let’s review what it takes to be a successful innovation manager.

Safe Risks

Instead of spending time defining parameter after parameter, give your participants a safe space to really take some risks. This is where the best thinking happens, and often where the true innovation comes about. Don’t underestimate the importance of risk taking in your open innovation program - but spend time promoting it! In an MIT Technology Review article on the pitfalls of innovation programs, they highlight this fact: “Risk-averse companies don’t lead—and they do not lead because they do not understand the paradigm that is driving the demand for their products—or someone else’s products. Steve Jobs understood very well the paradigm of the digital revolution. Risk-averse Kodak had very smart people who invented the first digital camera—and did nothing with it because they didn’t ‘get’ a paradigm that made their photographic film irrelevant.”

A successful innovation manager will set up a program that promotes “risky” behavior and allow participants to feel free to come up with those “crazy” ideas. Spend more time doing this and less time focusing on the small details of “acceptable” answers, and you’ll have participants that really show up with innovative ideas. Which is the point, right?

Community Management

While your innovation ideas and solutions are only as good as the participants, as the old poem goes, “no man is an island”. Because the best ideas often come from the teams within the innovation platform, make sure you spend time curating the best groups, whether they’re coworkers, strangers, or any combination thereof.

In UX Magazine’s article on the Problems with Innovation Workshops, this is one of the recommended strategies: divide participants into smaller teams, which allows for easier sharing. Sounds too easy? Like something you can neglect until later in the program? Think again. In that same MIT article mentioned earlier, author Randall S. Wright warns innovation managers, “it’s always a small group of obsessed individuals who know and talk to each other that are responsible for big innovations.”  So instead of spending your time coming up with names, aesthetics, and features, focus on assembling good groups of participants to yield the best results.

Focus on Recruiting

And just as good groups of participants are important, so are the participants that make up those groups. Ultimately, your open innovation program is only as good as those that join in and are enthusiastic about finding new solutions to your given issues and problems. From beginning to end, you’ll want to make sure you’re attracting the right participants to your contest.

Also, don’t forget about the importance of recruiting good ambassadors who can serve as mentors and judges during your open innovation contest. In the Technology Information Management Review article, “Weighing the Pros and Cons of Engaging in Open Innovation”, the authors discuss the importance of a strong innovation model and platform, stating “enterprises often need methodical support within the decision process of open innovation project participation.” Enlist the help of your experts and ambassadors to see the project through to end with success. Read more here to learn about the importance of recruiting ambassadors to your open innovation platform.

There you have it! Focus on the important facets of your platform and don’t sweat the small stuff. Leave that to the experts like the team at Skipso.

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