Tag Archives: Innovation Leader

Building an Effective Innovation Team

Key Roles and Responsibilities

Building an Effective Innovation Team

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Innovation is the lifeblood of any organization striving to stay ahead in today’s dynamic and competitive business landscape. To foster a culture of creativity and cultivate groundbreaking ideas, building an effective innovation team is paramount. This article explores key roles and responsibilities within such teams and delves into two compelling case studies that exemplify the power of a well-structured innovation team.

Key Roles within an Innovation Team:

1. Innovation Leader:

The innovation leader acts as the driving force and visionary within the team. This role encompasses setting the team’s mission, goals, and strategies, while continuously inspiring and motivating members towards innovative thinking. Additionally, the innovation leader ensures alignment between the innovation team’s objectives and organizational goals.

2. Ideation Specialists:

Ideation specialists concentrate on generating and refining ideas. They possess a unique ability to break the shackles of conventional thinking and nurture a culture of ideation within the team. By encouraging brainstorming sessions and implementing various ideation frameworks, such as Design Thinking or Six Thinking Hats, they facilitate the generation of diverse and creative ideas.

3. Market Research Analysts:

Market research analysts play a pivotal role in ensuring that ideas generated by the team have a strong foundation in market insights and customer needs. By conducting comprehensive market research, analyzing trends, and identifying potential opportunities and risks, they empower the team to make data-driven decisions and prioritize projects with the highest market potential.

4. Technical Experts:

Technical experts bring specialized knowledge and skills to the innovation team. They provide essential technical expertise to assess feasibility, prototype ideas, and overcome technological obstacles. Their contributions enable the team to transform concepts into tangible innovative solutions.

Case Study 1: Pixar Animation Studios:

Pixar Animation Studios, renowned for its groundbreaking animation technology and storytelling, exemplifies the power of an effective innovation team. Their team structure ensures cross-functional collaboration and diversity of perspectives. While the innovation leader sets a clear vision and encourages creativity, ideation specialists foster an environment of open communication and brainstorming sessions. Technical experts work closely with creative teams, developing cutting-edge animation technology. The result is a history of powerful animated films that have revolutionized the industry.

Case Study 2: Amazon:

Amazon, a global leader in e-commerce and disruptive technology, demonstrates the significance of market research analysts within an innovation team. By creating dedicated teams focused on researching market trends, consumer preferences, evolving technologies, and potential risks, Amazon keeps a pulse on market dynamics. These market research analysts enable Amazon’s innovation teams to make informed decisions, identify emerging business opportunities, and create products and services that anticipate customer demands.


Building an effective innovation team necessitates carefully defining key roles and responsibilities. Braden Kelley’s Nine Innovation Roles is a great tool for looking at this particular subject matter, and he makes several resources available for free on this site. By having an innovation leader who inspires, ideation specialists who foster an environment of creativity, market research analysts who provide insights, and technical experts who bring ideas to life, organizations can achieve breakthrough innovation. Case studies such as Pixar Animation Studios and Amazon exemplify the immense value of a well-structured innovation team. Through the implementation of these key roles and responsibilities, enterprises can foster a culture of innovation, leading to sustained growth and success in today’s ever-evolving business landscape.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Pexels

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Death of the Chief Innovation Officer

Death of the Chief Innovation Officer

Among my innovation peers, we have talked about how crucial executive commitment is, and some organizations have responded by hiring Innovation Managers, Innovation Directors, VP’s of Innovation, and Chief Innovation Officers (CINO’s not CIO’s so there is no confusion with Chief Information Officers).

One of the dangers of putting people in charge of innovation though, is that unless you carefully craft the positions and communicate their place and purpose across the organization, you can leave people feeling that innovation is not their job.

But, the reality is that everyone has a role to play in innovation, and in my five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire (available at many local libraries) I outlined nine innovation roles that must me filled at the appropriate times for innovation to be successful. The Nine Innovation Roles include:

  1. Revolutionary
  2. Artist
  3. Conscript
  4. Connector
  5. Troubleshooter
  6. Customer Champion
  7. Judge
  8. Magic Maker
  9. Evangelist

It is because everyone has a role to play in innovation, and because everyone is innovative in their own way, that installing a Chief Innovation Officer may not be the best idea.

Any time you put someone in charge of something at that level of the organization, you end up with someone who thinks they are in charge of the area, in control of innovation. And innovation is not something that you should seek to control, but instead to facilitate.

The idea that people are either innovative or not, and either possess the Innovator’s DNA or they don’t, is complete poppycock (feel free to insert a stronger or more colorful word if you’d like, but I’ll try and keep it PG – for now).

Is there is any type of work more in need of a servant leader than the innovation efforts of the company?

So, if you fire your Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) how are you going to make your organization more innovative?

The answer is to hire an Innovation Enablement Leader.

The implication is that this person’s job will be to lead not to manage, and to enable instead of control. The job of an Innovation Enablement Leader is to facilitate the Seven C’s of a Successful Innovation Culture (working title):

  1. Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity
  2. Collection of inspiration and insight
  3. Connections
  4. Creation
  5. Collaboration
  6. Commercialization
  7. Communications

More on the details of the Seven C’s of a Successful Innovation Culture in a future article.

Responsibility for innovation should remain with the business, under an innovation vision, strategy and goals set by the CEO and senior leadership. The job of an Innovation Enablement Leader (or Innovation Facilitator) meanwhile is to serve the rest of the organization and to work across the organization to help remove barriers to innovation and to focus on the Seven C’s of a Successful Innovation Culture. This could also providing a set of tools and methodologies for creative problem solving and other aspects of innovation work, organizing events, and other activities that support deepening capabilities across the Seven C’s of Successful Innovation Culture.

Most organizations have innovated at least once in their existence, and in many organizations people are still innovating. A true Innovation Enablement Leader is more of a coach, supporting emergent innovation, and helping people test and learn, prototype and find the right channel to scale the most promising insight-driven ideas (or work with the organization to create new channels).

So, are you seeking to control innovation with a Chief Innovation Officer or to facilitate it with an Innovation Enablement Leader?

Keep innovating!

P.S. If you’re looking to hire an Innovation Enablement Leader, drop me an email.

Image credit: E Sotera (via interaction-design.org)

This article originally appeared on Linkedin

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