How To Find Champions Of Innovation Among Your Ranks

When companies start innovation programs, one of the biggest challenges is how to select the right leaders to spearhead them. The search for an innovation champion often begins internally for someone who is a confident leader comfortable working in an unstructured environment, capable of thinking creatively and a genuinely good listener.

The author’s firm, NineSigma, recently partners with the human capital management company CALIPER to co-develop a customized and scientifically sound model to build out teams that would be well positioned to grow open innovation programs and innovation-driven business cultures. The specialized strengths required for managing innovation teams range from being comfortable reaching into the outside world for new solutions, to being able to help groups of intelligent, independent, and strong-minded individuals to work more collaboratively.

The partners found there are actually two key roles needed in an OI team–the visionary and the implementer. Accordingly, they developed two Collaborative Innovation Profiles for Innovation Leaders and Project Managers.

The profiles surface key differences between these two roles. For instance, Innovation Leaders are visionary, strong communicators, and comfortable with risks. Project Managers are skilled in keeping innovation teams on task, with a sensitivity to organizational needs and goals, and strong attention to detail. Their teams are enhanced by individuals with diverse backgrounds and qualities, from dreamers who push everyone’s thinking “to the edge,” to experts who know what it takes to accomplish specific outcomes. The combined traits build sustainable innovation because the leaders bring fresh blue-sky thinking and the project managers create accountability to ensure a stream of outcomes.

The article goes on to provide a high-level snapshot of traits that each of the leadership profiles have, to be referenced in building effective innovation leadership teams.

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