Jobs in innovation: our field guide

Guide

For most companies, developing a winning innovation strategy isn’t business as usual. It takes time, skills, and resources, including a dedicated team of entrepreneurial professionals to guide the process. But it can be difficult to determine which people will be best suited to an organization’s needs because there are so many innovation roles, job titles, and descriptions out there. What do they all do?

As an innovation consultancy, we’ve been involved in innovation projects around the globe. This means we have cooperated with many different profiles within the field of innovation. So we thought we’d make a list of all the different job titles we’ve encountered in hopes that it might give you insights into the various roles you could use during your innovation process.

Of course, as many people are allowed to choose their own job titles, some descriptions overlap. This makes it really challenging to determine the differences between varying roles. Some people even pick multiple job titles (there are a few guilty parties in our very own team).

This list already contains 19 different innovation job titles and descriptions. The terms and responsibilities are constantly evolving, so if you know of a job title that could be a useful addition to this post, please share it on LinkedIn!

Many thanks in advance and let’s keep innovating.

Innovation consultant

As the title suggests, this is an external advisor specialized in different aspects of innovation. Mostly, they are only involved for a limited period of time. Innovation consultants that start working in-house 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 organization or that they don’t have a specialization yet.

Business (model) designer

This is a title we use here 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. Business designers support corporate innovation teams in their quest to find new desirable, viable, and feasible business opportunities that could deliver business value and results (for example, by creating disruptive new business models or generating new revenue streams).

Alternative title: business model architect

Change agent

A change agent focuses on the HR part of innovation. This person loves to spread the culture of innovation within an organization and 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. The 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 builds the foundation required to get their support.

Chief innovation officer (CIO)

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

New business development manager

This role focuses on consumer and market research (observational studies, focus groups, surveys) by working on industry forecasts, SWOT analyses, and consumer interviews. This person’s goal is to spot new opportunities (market segments, product categories ⇒ revenue streams) for the company to work on. The new business development manager usually leads a small team to commercialize new opportunities into new markets.

Business development lead

Business development leads guide and fuel the growth of a company, shape its sales strategy, and develop new and existing business relationships. This person will pursue new business development activities and guide teams to do the same.

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Innovation Catalyst

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

innovation analyst

An innovation analyst uses research and data analysis to find changes/opportunities in the market. This person suggests business process improvements using analytics. Monitoring the activity of competitors is a major part of this role. In the end, this person’s goal is to manage the development of product requirements while aligning with the business strategy.

Digital transformation officer/manager

With demonstrated experience in digital strategy, communication, marketing, and product management, these digital experts 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.

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 to meet long-term goals. The innovation strategist works closely with the business designer. That, or they’ll fill both roles themselves and list it in their 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 senses 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. Innovation managers often work with consultants to help them ensure people (and 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, and 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 a goal of bringing teams from an idea to an executive pitch in only 4 days.

Venture builder

A venture builder co-founds new businesses and helps get them off the ground. This profile is tasked with challenging and accelerating innovative corporate ventures to ensure viability. The venture builder brainstorms business ideas, builds the right teams, leads innovation sprints, raises capital, and leverages shared resources.

Venture architect

Venture architects set up ventures and determine the best course of action to help businesses develop and, ideally, be disruptive and sustainable in the long run. Venture architects design business development strategies, pricing, marketing, etc., and keep an eye on competitors’ strategies.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) consultant

An AI consultant knows their way around developments in AI and machine learning and can analyze, explain, and develop models relating to them. AI consultants suggest ways to achieve business goals by utilizing and implementing advanced AI. This profile can write code and use tools like Python to leverage data for commercial purposes.

Experience lead

An experience lead knows how to build an incredible customer or user experience via a range of touchpoints, including online platforms, packaging, features, etc. This profile arranges extensive user research and develops products or services accordingly. Their goal is to delight customers.

Product design prototyper

This person has a hand in developing products from start to finish. The product development prototyper is involved with research, concept, design, etc., and as such, needs to have a range of skills (depending on the industry), including visual design capabilities and experience with related systems and programs.

Customer experience researcher

A customer experience researcher helps select problems/opportunities worth tackling and conducts customer validation, solution ideation, prototype testing, etc., to develop customer-centric business ideas from conception to launch. This person combines user research, usability, design, and various innovation methodology expertise to generate new disruptive products.

Tech lab lead

The tech lab lead researches and experiments with different innovation technology tools in order to design radical new innovation processes. This person innovates innovation.

Want to join our team?

We're hiring! Be sure to check out the current vacancies at Board of Innovation.

As I 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 your thoughts.

Thanks in advance!

Thanks for reading!

I’m Alexandra Sutton, copywriter at Board of Innovation. If you’d like to see more content like this, sign up for our newsletter below.

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