7 Characteristics Of An Innovation Manager

Shannon Waller
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Ever had an idea you were extremely passionate about and thought could alter the course of your company?

Ever watched that idea flounder and fall apart because you didn’t have the right person to take action on it? It can be a major source of frustration, for both entrepreneurs and teams, when there isn’t a successful implementation process to get ideas off the ground.

This is where an intermediary, or “Innovation Manager,” can dramatically accelerate the pace at which your ideas get brought to life. If you’re the one who “makes it up,” these are the team members who are skilled at “making it real.” They play the role of the middleman and are exceptional at bringing your ideas to the rest of the team and to those who “make it recur.”

Innovation Managers are the missing link and the answer to transforming ideas into reality. They know how to take raw ideas, put meat on the bones, flesh things out, and bring them to life. They’re invaluable because they take innovations, get them up and running, and then send them off to the rest of the team.

Here are seven characteristics to look for in a successful Innovation Manager:

  1. They’re phenomenal problem solvers.
    Great Innovation Managers thrive off having problems to solve. In fact, they get bored when they don’t have something to sink their teeth into. They’re talented at working with complexities and puzzles and are drawn toward situations that require this particular type of thinking.
  2. They’re adaptable.
    When priorities change, this doesn’t stress them out—it’s where they flourish. They usually have plans B, C, and D thought out well in advance and are quick to come up with alternatives. This is vital in an entrepreneurial environment where things are changing rapidly and new demands from the marketplace are constant.
  3. They’re outstanding communicators.
    They’re great at understanding people and their needs, which in turn allows them to sell them on projects and timelines to keeps things moving. They know how to position things in a way that the other person can receive the information without feeling a sense of stress or anxiety.
  4. They’re results-focused and resourceful.
    Skilled Innovation Managers understand the importance of connecting people to the end result. They’re resourceful: If one path doesn’t work, they’ll try something else, and if a certain resource doesn’t work, they’ll find another one. They’re incredibly competent at using what’s around them or finding new capabilities to help them reach their goals.
  5. They set up the team with the necessary conditions for success.
    The best Innovation Managers are aware that the most important part of any project is people, so they make sure the team is well prepared and equipped. They understand the importance of communicating what’s coming down the pipeline ahead of time.
  6. They’re great facilitators and connectors.
    It’s very easy, even in the best companies, for teams and projects to get isolated and operate as silos. Innovation Managers are aware of this and make sure to pull in talents from different parts of the company. They love making new things happen and transforming ideas into realities.
  7. They’re multi-capable.
    Great project managers are usually generalists rather than specialists. They operate from a diverse range of capabilities and are avid learners. They invest in learning about things only to the degree they need to in order to keep their projects moving and to find the right talent and skills required.
One trap Innovation Managers can fall into is not passing projects off to Process Managers—the team members in charge of making things recur—when they’ve been tried and tested. They can get bogged down with too many balls in the air, leaving them unable to take on new, exciting projects.

For entrepreneurs, the capability an effective Innovation Manager brings to the table is invaluable. They’re passionate about taking care of the ideas in your head and are experts at figuring out the scope of the project, who the key players are, and what financial resources are required, which simultaneously takes massive amounts of pressure off the rest of the team. So surround yourself with a team that can make it up, make it real, and make it recur!