What an Innovation Director should do?
Many are probably surprised by the apparently obvious question posed in the title. But is it so obvious? On three sides – experience as an Innovation Director, a participant in job interviews, and on the part of a consultant developing innovation in companies, I have already collided with several ideas of who the Innovation Director should be. What should he do, how, how often and how much he should earn. Today I am going to tell you about my experiences.
At the very beginning, let’s take a look at the Innovation Director position description. As a rule, as the name suggests, it is someone who leads an innovation portfolio, shape the overall strategy, and grow the organization. It might seem a simple matter. In practice, there are tens of thousands of Innovation Directors who not only set the vision, implement and measure results but also their work is focused on acquiring new clients, partners, investors, media. If this is such an obvious position the discrepancy is really big. Am I right?
Below I will describe several types of Innovation Directors I have met. It is especially worth recognizing these types if any of the readers plan to look for a job in this position in the near future.
Types from the employer’s perspective
- Innovation Director will arrange everything for us and it will be all right – A popular type of Innovation Director. For this type of person looks a company that has been selling the same thing for 10 years, has been observing a decline in profitability for several months maybe even years.
After harsh months of inaction, management says, “ENOUGH! Time to do something about it! ” And yes – the first idea that comes to someone’s mind is to a Director. Someone who could be commissioned to fix the business.
The idea itself is not bad, but the most common problems in this situation are two. The first and the greatest – people want to fix years of neglect in a few weeks (days or hours work well too) and that never works. And the second problem is the lack of data. These companies usually do not know exactly how the growth was carried out, what people did, how often and how. Therefore, a potential candidate must start from scratch and provide results ASAP.
- Innovation Director will finally make my dreams come true – This type is similar to the previous one but has a completely different problem. The company is going through similar problems, it is also long on the market and its financial results are declining. Likewise, the board decides to save the situation and opens recruitment. But this situation differs from the previous one by one small matter – the owner has already read 2 books about business and attended one training course so now knows perfectly what needs to be done, but there is simply no time to do it. How many times have I seen that…
This situation is doomed to failure. A business owner who knows perfectly how to grow business would do it long before hiring a Director. The fact that he is looking for someone to delegate his ideas means that earlier ideas turned out to not work, but he was unable to notice or understand it. What’s more, the Director is then not the Director, but only the executor of brilliant ideas from interesting books. The sad part of it is that the Director will hold the whole responsibility for the mistakes and lack of results and as my experience says, it takes some balls to throw the truth in the face of own boss and not many will do that.
- The Innovation Director will control everything – Another type that I recognized is a company that blames the people for any evil that has ever befallen it. “It’s all their fault!” can be heard between the lines. If people were doing better, if they do more, if they did not go out for a cigarette, it would be much better. The vision of Innovation Director in such a company is a controlling and enforcing role. The new Boss will make sure everyone works much harder. Everyone here probably knows perfectly well that it doesn’t work anymore.
The easiest way to hire a Director who has low competences and will like the role of an executioner who will pursue people and therefore not develop the organization itself. In addition, in the current labor market, people managed in this way will very quickly depart from such an employer. Everyone will lose – people, owners and the aforementioned new Director.
- The Innovation Director will be sitting at the meetings – This is the fourth and last type from the perspective of the employing person. As a business consultant, I meet this one the most. Some money-hungry companies have so many things to agree that they organize and sit at meetings endlessly. Of course, the Innovation Director in such a company has very specific expectations and at the same time is required to attend all meetings.
I myself found myself in a situation where the number of meetings exceeded my contract hours for the week. Meetings the whole week equals nothing done. During these meetings, of course, very wise plans were established, which then nobody realized, because everyone was running to the next meeting. You can’t fix anything this way. Period.
Types from the Innovation Director perspective:
- Innovation Director does important things – In this type, the Innovation Director’s contact with his team is limited to “throwing in” orders and announcing the budget to be executed. The rest of the time is filled with very important tasks. Nobody understands what these tasks are, but they require them to stay locked up, often for months or even years. When I enter such a company as a business consultant, the Director announces that he absolutely does not understand the reason behind the department’s poor performance. Hate this type, Director is making an appearance from time to time, showing his disrespect to the team, takes all the honours for himself.
- Innovation Director is an innovation Master – He takes his briefcase, gets in the car and goes to sell himself, often bringing large contracts and opportunities. However, in the long run, the people on his team are quitting, and those who stayed behind are falling. There’s no team, just Director making the show.
- Innovation Director must have a built-up distance – The director from point seven is a very important figure. This is someone who has achieved such a great professional success that he simply requires respect from everyone. Everyone treats him as a “Lord” and allows meetings only at appropriate times. He tries to manage his department, but due to the distance he has built, he almost never realizes the real problems the team is facing. He only ever hears the politically correct version. Once I was on the training where ‘the expert’ told me that I should stay away from the team as much as possible. At first, I didn’t know what does it mean, so I asked for an explanation. I heard: “You shouldn’t take lunch in the same room where they do”.
- Innovation Director is everyone’s friend – Director as a friend. When the team cries, he cries with them. When the team goes out to drink, he drinks with them. When the team is lazy he is too. This Director is such a strong part of the team that, unfortunately, he cannot be objective. He negotiates bonuses for the team, raises, promotions with the management board and explains their failures very well. When the team refuses to follow his instructions, the Director decides that the idea itself just might be wrong…
My dream type of Innovation Director:
In my opinion, the Innovation Director should deal with:
- Recruitment – because only he is able to supplement the team with talents that will take the company to a new level.
- Building the system – the system, that clean up all the procedures.
- Development of people – because only he is able to develop his team.
Simple, but remember – good recruitment lasts all the time, building the system never ends, because the market is changing, and people’s development cannot be done from behind the desk – you have to go out with people and be ready to get your hands dirty.
Did you hear about hiring the Innovation Director as a service?
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Ok, this is the end of auto-promotion. Now you know all the types of Innovation Directors. Which one did you like the most?
And what’s your dream type? Share it in the comment.
See you in the next post,