Jobs in innovation: our field guide

Yannick KhayatiBoard Of Innovation, Intrapreneurship, Jobs

For most companies, developing a winning innovation strategy isn’t usual business. It takes a lot of time, skills and resources. Though essential for long term business growth, innovation is often killed due to the focus on core business processes.

As an innovation consultancy we’ve been globally involved in lots of innovation projects. This means we have cooperated with many different profiles within the field of innovation. Companies finally seem to understand the necessity of an innovation strategy. For me this was a good reason to make a list of all these different profiles. It might give people insights in the different roles they could use during their innovation process.

Since many people are allowed to choose their own job title, there is a lot of overlap between some descriptions. This makes it really challenging to find differences between different roles. We also noticed that some people even choose multiple job titles (one of our own team is guilty).

Profiel Arne

This list already contains 13 different job titles at the moment of publishing. In a discussion I recently published in our Innovation Group on Linkedin, I noticed some great job titles which have not been mentioned here so far. That’s why this is the first time I’ll allow you and other fellow innovators to add job titles/descriptions to this post. If you have a useful addition for this post in your mind, please share in the comments or in this Google Doc. Please feel free to add them to this document as well.

Many thanks in advance and let’s keep innovating.

Innovation Consultant

As the title suggests, this is an external adviser specialised on different aspects of innovation. Mostly, they are only involved for a limited period of time. Innovation consultants that start working fulltime at one of their clients are likely to become ‘Innovation managers’. Both titles are frequently used and suggest either that they are working for a conservative established organisation or that they don’t have a specialisation yet.

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Business (model) Designer

This is a title we use at Board of Innovation. A Business Designer creates and develops suitable business models to find revenue streams and pricing strategies for new products or services.

Alternative title: Business Model Architect

Change Agent (we’re still looking for one to join our team)

A Change Agent focuses on the HR part of innovation. He or she loves to spread the culture of innovation within an organization. This person has what it takes to motivate people to make a change. The goal of a Change Agent is to design and implement a transformation strategy. Main task in this role is setting up a structure that supports innovation in a company while making sure the most important ‘political figures’ of the company see the value of the change. Coaching, motivating and supporting these sponsors is the foundation of getting their support.

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Chief Innovation Officer

The CIO (Chief Innovation Officer) is the face of innovation in a large organisation. He or she defines the innovation strategy based on the overall corporate strategy and checks if it is executed as planned. He is on the same level as the CEO but often leads a team of new business development managers.

New Business Development Manager

This role focuses on consumer & market research (observational studies, focus groups, surveys) by working on industry forecast, SWOT analysis, and consumer interviews. The goal of this person is to spot new opportunities (market segments, product categories ⇒ revenue streams) for his/her company to work on. The new business development manager usually leads a small team to commercialize new opportunities into new markets.

Innovation Catalyst

An Innovation Catalyst has expertise in cultural trends & insights and knows what it’s like to drive a global strategy to regional teams per continent. He or she is a trusted partner of the marketing team, because their goal is to find consumer & innovation growth opportunities in emerging markets. The strength of the Catalyst is in uncovering what consumers are missing in their lives and creating new products or services to solve this. Some innovation catalyst are dedicated on internal stakeholders to collect ideas, problems and opportunities from employees of the company they work at. Their favorite tools are ideation crowdsourcing platforms such as Yambla.

Innovation Engineer

The Innovation Engineer has a more technical role, mainly focused on the creation of new technical prototypes. These profiles are ideal for the development of hardware products. In operational companies with a complex supply chain these types are mostly focused on finding new ways to get finished products to the consumer market.

Innovation Analyst

An Analyst uses research and analysis (often by data) to find changes/opportunities in the market. This person suggest business process improvements by using analytics. A major part in this role exists of watching the activity of competitors. In the end the goal of this person is to manage the development of product requirements aligning with the business strategy.

Digital Transformation Officer/Manager

These digital experts, with demonstrated experience in digital strategy, communication, marketing and product management are real do-ers. They are responsible for the digitalization of existing (or new) products and services. The Digital Transformation Officer leads a team of digital natives that implements a chosen digital strategy.

New Business Improvement Manager

A New Business Improvement Manager is very result-oriented, he uses the reports of the Innovation Analyst to improve business processes. The key in this role is in developing customer and business solutions across product management, marketing, corporate strategy and operations. The power of these profiles is in their ability to think like a customer.

Innovation Strategist

The Strategist is the one who develops and updates the business plan. Based on reports and market insights this person knows exactly which path the company has to follow on the long run. He works closely together with the business designer or has both roles in his job description.

Innovation Manager

The Innovation Manager aka ‘the person who hires us’ is mostly an experienced profile with a business or HR background. This person knows the market very well and feels when the time is right for new innovation projects. The goal of someone in this role is to find new revenue streams. In most cases this person works with a whole department of innovation professionals. The reason these types work with consultants is to help them making sure the people (and the processes) follow the new way of thinking.

Lean Startup Coach

One of our team members loves to refer to himself as a ‘Lean Startup Coach’. This person believes that the development of people is just as important as the development of ideas. He likes to organize trainings on several topics such as creativity, business models, prototyping, … He is really convinced that innovation is not driven by corporate processes, but by people. That’s why I think this role is more on the HR side of innovation. A Lean Startup Coach loves to work on short projects with as goal bringing teams from an idea to an executive pitch in only 4 days.

As said earlier in this post, you can consider this an ‘open’ list. If you know other job titles that might be a great addition to this post, feel free to share them in the comments or through this Google Doc.

Thanks in advance for your cooperation.