The Evolving Role of the Head of Innovation

The Head of Innovation is evolving

The role of the Head of Innovation has never been more important, but it has also never been more difficult to define or to execute successfully.

More than half of enterprise organizations recognize innovation as a top priority and 43% actually have a designated innovation leader. In a lot of cases, however, the role serves more as an acknowledgement of the importance of innovation rather than a driving force.

Large companies have a sense that innovation is important and realize that having an in-house innovation head looks good, but the responsibilities and requirements of the job are still being figured out.

The Head of Innovation is a blank slate

Now that head of innovation is an expected role at any company that wants to be part of digital transformation, we take a look at how the position is evolving.

The Current State of the Head of Innovation

As with many executive positions, the Head of Innovation is evolving more than ever to keep up with the demands of markets that are constantly being disrupted by new technology and software solutions.

Internal innovation executives are generally seen as motivators who come up with new ideas, collect innovative ideas from others and do whatever is necessary to drive those ideas forward.

By default, the position connects technical and business departments within companies, but the required background of the person holding the position differs depending on the organization.

Now is the time to define what Head of Innovation means for your company

Some organizations look for candidates with a tech-heavy background who are also business savvy so that they can understand business goals and affect innovative change.

Other organizations look for candidates who have an impressive business acumen and a technological orientation so that they understand the nuance of implementing the innovations they spearhead.

Even with these different approaches to the position, there are some clear responsibilities that fall to the Head of Innovation:

  • Finding the right balance between risk and innovation
  • Creating and maintaining agile innovation processes so the company can smoothly adjust to market changes
  • Going beyond perceived boundaries to pursue innovation
  • Learning from other industries and finding ways to apply those lessons to your own innovation operation
  • Partnering with third party innovation collaborators such as software vendors
  • Establishing metrics to measure innovation

The Future of the Head of Innovation

While some companies, such as Ralph Lauren, have been able to successfully create and take advantage of the role, many companies continue to struggle to define exactly what a Head of Innovation means for them.

Ralph Lauren Innovation

This is understandable, given that the position is still in its infancy and will continue to evolve as technology and markets change with the digital transformation of nearly every industry.

For those taking on this role, it is important that you have strong internal support from both business and technological executives, and that you have the flexibility to see innovations through.

This will make it easier to clearly show your impact on the company, and more broadly to show the impact of having a defined innovation leader within the company.

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