A Closer Look at the Three Skill Sets that Enable Innovation

In our previous posts, we’ve made two major points. One: innovation is vital for the long-term survival of any business. And two: a handful of crazy ideas won’t cut the mustard. Successful innovation is a complex process that requires a whole lot more than just riotous creativity. Based on academic research, and in close collaboration with professor Frederik Anseel (Ghent University), we’ve defined three innovation profiles: ideators, champions and implementers. Each of these personas has a crucial part to play in what we like to call ‘innovation dream teams’. What makes them unique and why do you need all three? Let’s take a closer look.

Ideators: the inventive inquirer

  • Main skills: a unique ability to spot new opportunities and a knack for determining which ideas have the biggest potential. Ideators are natural-born problem-solvers and are great at finding novel solutions for old problems.
  • Additional competences: ideators are generally open-minded and curious people with active imaginations. They have an aesthetic sensitivity, an attentiveness for inner feelings and a preference for variety. This encourages them to learn new things and meet different people. Ideators are also more likely to acknowledge alternative views and solutions, because they actively scan their environments for new information.
  • Allergic to: bad or unmotivated ideas, rigid thinking and people with tunnel vision.
  • Keys to innovation success: 
    • Persistence: the best ideators do everything in their power to bring ideas to a successful result. They do not give up easily and, if needed, keep looking for alternative solutions.
    • A constant stream of new input: if a proposed solution doesn’t work, exceptional ideators are prepared to go back to the drawing board. They are able to broaden their view by collaborating with team members and clients or by looking across industry boundaries.

Champions: the communicators that keep the spirits high

  • Main skills: champions are particularly good at selling ideas in a positive atmosphere. They have the skills to create enthusiasm, acquire support from stakeholders and mobilize resources. They are good at judging the needs and expectations of others, which enables them to adjust their communication and behavior accordingly.
  • Additional competences: champions tend to be people persons who have a genuine and personal interest in their co-workers’ concerns. They are generally more willing to help and share information. Champions closely monitor the people they interact with and enjoy the responsibility of managing relationships with different stakeholders.
  • Allergic to: bad communication, negative talk and lone wolves.
  • Keys to innovation success: 
    • Making things tangible: the best champions don’t just repeat ideas over and over again. They develop prototypes or present a proof-of-concept to convince hesitant stakeholders. They don’t give up easily and keep believing in the idea, even if they are faced with criticism or reluctant management.
    • Searching for proof: champions can make a big difference by coming up with well-researched and founded arguments. Testimonials, market analysis reports, online surveys or even opinions from colleagues … All of these can be useful. Champions find the data that is needed to gain company-wide support and overcome management’s objections.

Implementers: the hands-on pragmatics

  • Main skills: implementers have a knack for turning innovative ideas into solutions that work. During the implementation, they are the ones who know how to tackle problems such as resource shortages, time constraints or complaints. When a project deadline is creeping uncomfortably close, implementers are the ones who keep cool heads and lead the way.
  • Additional competences: implementers are often hard-boiled multitaskers that don’t fear difficult and demanding assignments. Implementers are constantly looking for ways to work faster or more efficiently. They can handle negative feedback and are able to respond in a rational manner.
  • Allergic to: wasted time, inefficient work and emotional responses to rational problems.
  • Keys to innovation success:
    • Researching and analyzing results: exceptional implementers treat negative customer feedback as a gift. Instead of taking hasty action, they investigate what went wrong and systematically analyze the problem. Their goal is to map out the causes in order to come up with solutions that improve the product. Customer service is always on their mind.
    • Teamwork: when disputes arise between teams, implementers step up. They can refocus on collaboration and common goals. They know that deadlines can only be reached as a team. The best implementers are receptive to everyone’s observations and aspirations and can reduce stress within the group.

Recognize yourself in one of these descriptions?

Did you think ‘hey, that’s me’ while reading the characteristics of ideators, champions or implementers?  There is a way to find out whether you’re right. Simulation tests or ‘situational judgement tests’ have proven their worth as reliable and valid measuring tools. Find out more about the way INNDUCE.me can determine your innovation profile.

By Saar Van Lysebetten

About the author

Saar is working as a PhD student at the Department of Personnel Management, Work & Organizational Psychology of Ghent University. She is responsible for the psychological aspect of INNDUCE.me and is specialised in the development of simulation tests & training.