What Does an Innovation Manager Do? (And How to Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 30, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you have a passion for creativity and collaboration, you may enjoy a career as an innovation manager. These professionals generate new ideas to benefit businesses, encourage technical development and develop new solutions in the workplace. Learning more about what innovation managers do can help you decide whether this career suits your interests and skill set. In this article, we explain what an innovation manager does, share the steps to become one, discuss essential skills for success, and explore different work environments.

What does an innovation manager do?

When considering future career opportunities, you may have wondered, 'What does an innovation manager do?" These professionals can work in any sector that requires ongoing advances to develop and improve. Research and development are paramount in much of corporate success, and innovation managers can help implement ideas to improve processes and efficiency. Here are some details involving an innovation manager's regular tasks:

Job description

Innovation managers balance creativity with organizational capacity. Creating new designs and managing a team of innovators requires a unique set of skills. Part of the job is establishing a creative environment. The other aspect is identifying the best ideas, looking for potential, and allocating resources in the ideal direction. Working as a part of the development team, innovation managers work on a variety of projects to grow a business' market share.

Regular duties and salary

An innovation manager's daily tasks vary significantly depending on the industry, though they often involve technological development, by staying current with cultural and technical developments in the field. The national average salary of an innovation manager is $84,152 per year. In a project management position, the goal-oriented nature of innovation managers involves working with a team of specialists to complete a task in the most efficient way possible.

How to become an innovation manager

By virtue of innovation, there are many paths to becoming an innovation manager. Most positions request at least an undergraduate degree in computer sciences or management. Experience is a valued asset in terms of innovation managers because it showcases knowledge of agility approaches, scrum, and design thinking. These professionals sometimes work with large corporate budgets, meaning it requires education, updated training, and technical experience. The following three steps detail the path to becoming an innovation manager:

1. Get a relevant post-secondary education

Having a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement. With the increasing reliance on automation, digital studies are a common approach. Business management degrees also lend to success when paired with technical studies during your degree. If you're advancing your education to get an innovation management position, to remain competitive, you can pursue a postgraduate degree specific to your industry.

2. Grow your experience in management

Innovation managers are a pivotal part of any research and development team, a department that requires a substantial budget. The management capacity is equally as important as innovative capacity. Maintaining a productive team over the long term, especially if you have impressive success metrics, shows prospective employers that you have excellent management skills. Effective management fosters business success by encouraging efficiency, creating a healthy workplace culture, and facilitating the development of staff while achieving company goals.

Read more: Top Management Skills Every Manager Needs

3. Develop an up-to-date portfolio

Showcasing your expertise is helpful when looking to manage an innovation team. It displays previous success, suggesting a higher probability of your effectiveness. A portfolio also notes the specific approaches taken to achieve goals. This can work to highlight either specialization or diversity, depending on your business approach. Providing a list of innovation management projects you've achieved recently shows that you can take on the role. With this, when a prospective client asks, "What does an innovation manager do?", you can more easily explain your skills and achievements.

Skills of innovation managers

To work as an innovation manager, there are some helpful administrative creative skills you can apply to the role. Achieving success involves understanding how talent and training can apply to different situations, using gained experience and knowledge to inform future decisions. The following skills assist innovation managers in working efficiently:

Critical thinking and technical understanding

Having experience with design thinking and development contributes to success. Understanding object-oriented programming and iterative software development fosters continued innovation. The history of brand management and market analysis informs the possible approaches of innovation to help the company succeed. The position is creative, yet involves measured investment into certain ideas, requiring a high level of technical knowledge and the ability to prioritize and analyze large data sets.

Read more: How to Develop a Strategic Business Development Plan

Communication and public speaking

To achieve any corporate goal, the innovation manager communicates the idea clearly to a range of audiences. The business investing in the idea would prefer to hear how it leads to company goals. Conversely, an innovation management team may better understand it in technical terms. Determining the best way to relay information shows an understanding of target audiences, a talent necessary for these professionals.

Collaboration and time management

Working with multiple departments is common for innovation managers, as new developments often involve the business. Being able to integrate the needs of others into time management and project prioritization helps a great deal in this position. Being able to make quick decisions based on set objectives involves managing changing information. Managing a team involves knowing how to accommodate the time required for the staff to complete a task while still meeting deadlines.

Strategic and economic understanding

Determining how innovation can impact the business strategy involves an in-depth and current understanding of the economy as a whole. Strategizing requires planning for multiple contingencies, where effectively planning goals for the team is paramount. The ability to think creatively and generate unique approaches that factor in current circumstances helps innovation managers succeed.

Technological and machining skills

Innovative and automated are becoming more related, and to stay current in a competitive industry, these management professionals can benefit from current skills. Knowing how to manage software, fluency in various programming languages, and understanding of automation script fosters success. Using technology to increase efficiency applies to everything from production to marketing and transaction speed. In remaining apprised of the current technology available, innovation applications can become easier to employ in a changing work environment.

Work opportunities for innovation management

Building a career in the innovation management sector involves working in multiple capacities over time. Depending on your skill set and specific training, you can use it in various ways. These approaches include:

Finding and managing ideas

Responsible for generating new ideas by seeking out new sources, brainstorming, and actively pursuing new leads, this task involves creativity. In a management capacity, you can evaluate ideas already in existence, either improving upon or integrating them. The two approaches often combine to get results in the workplace.

Scouting and recruiting talent

Actively pursuing scientists and developers on an international scale, innovation managers look for people, companies, and technologies that can improve business operations. From there, the recruiters aim to work with those professionals to advance company interests. This involves networking skills and being able to communicate.

Quality management

Innovation managers are responsible for continuous improvement, working with a specific company to streamline processes. This role involves working to implement new processes, check their efficacy, and use that to inform potential changes. It involves attention to detail and a passion for precision work.

Strategy and economic foresight

Working to determine how large-scale cultural events and economic trends impact the company, this aspect of innovation management is about planning. It involves managing business projections and risk analysis, used to determine the best option to achieve a goal. The strategists performing in this capacity focus entirely on large-scale projects, planning for years and even decades into the future.

Organization development

This involves the structural design and implementation of different technical systems. An organization development manager works with people, finds ways to integrate innovation, and uses it to benefit the company's goals. Though not the originator of the innovative practice, the organization development professional facilitates the application of innovation and manages the people surrounding it.

Project management

Whether in a consultancy capacity or in-house, project management specialists have unique job structures because they take a precise objective and see it through. Unlike other roles that involve larger-scale operations, this type of work involves things like updating communication software for remote work integration. Once the task is complete, the project management specialist turns to a new objective.

Read more: Project Manager vs. Project Coordinator: What Makes Them Different?

Portfolio management

Innovation managers typically handle multiple accounts simultaneously. Managing development innovations for several aspects of a company, this role involves a great deal of time management skills, patience, and persistence. Prioritizing necessary tasks and determining how to best allocate resources to optimize a company's business profile is paramount to this role.

Technical development

In charge of actually creating the technology used to streamline processes, this technician is the fountainhead of the innovation itself. Responsible for generating a prototype, maintaining it, and updating it to meet company specifications, the developer is both creative and technical. Found in almost every industry, innovation managers that work as developers play essential roles in business success.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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