In-house innovation programs continue to proliferate and our concept of the innovator has evolved alongside them. Now we no longer think of a creative genius sitting alone in their tower coming up with creative ideas. Now, innovators can play a number of different roles within an innovation program beyond idea author. A lot of interest and attention is being paid to this concept, because organizations that are looking to sponsor and train innovation skills at their organization need to understand what skills matter most when it comes to creating meaningful change. After all, it’s an important part of professional development nowadays. Every employee at any organization needs to be able to keep up with the rapid pace of change. So here are a few of the roles that innovators play at large organizations.

Connectors. Research is beginning to show that it’s not so much about a great idea, but the network of connections between great ideas that breeds truly transformative change. That’s why innovators need to be good at fostering connection between creators and their ideas. And they need to further connect new concepts to the resources that make change possible which is why transparent and collaborative idea software can be so powerful.

Culture Creators. Innovators ignite excitement (instead of fear) around the idea of change. With so much changing all the time, it’s easy for people to feel intimidated and for great ideas to fear failure. Innovators need to celebrate new ideas – both their successes and the value of lessons learned and socialize those stories throughout the organization.

Problem Solvers. The most successful innovation programs align around a business need. If an innovator sees a strategic challenge, they start looking for a solution everywhere (even if that solution comes from outside themselves, their department, even their company). Of course, the best innovators try to develop a robust understanding of any problem before they look for a solution… but that’s a whole other blog post.

Change Makers. This skill is perhaps the hardest to teach, but instead relies on our ability to grow in a role or to network. Essentially, any innovator needs sufficient authority to create change. Even if they don’t have the budget or the connections themselves, they can facilitate meaningful conversations that leads to real change in the end.


To hear from real life connectors, culture creators, problem solvers, and change makers, watch this video of IdeaScale customers talking about their experience.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

Featured image via Unsplash.