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There are numerous new innovation job titles: Chief Innovation Officer (a job title that has increased in occurrence by 500% according to ZipRecruiter’s job title analysis), Innovation Manager, Innovation Coach… the list goes on. But one title that we’ve run into from time to time is the “Innovation Catalyst.” But what does an Innovation Catalyst do that’s different from other roles?

Well, according to the Innovation Catalyst at Lake Trust Credit Union, Blake Woods, his job is to drive human-centered design and futurist thinking throughout an organization. This is why they’re called catalysts. Instead of being responsible for generating new ideas and stewarding innovation on their own, they see it as a facilitative role where they’re helping everyone at an organization meet this goal. That means communications, training, and processes where the entire rest of the organization is bringing good ideas to fruition. That means the team starts training new employees on innovation from day one; in fact, it’s part of employee onboarding in which all new employees are invited to share their ideas in their Gather idea management portal.

The result, of course, is an intrapreneurial program where an organization can find enterprising ideas from anyone in the organization. Mr. Woods gave this example during his podcast interview. The team had identified a trend of a large portion of their membership not taking advantage of the savings or money market offerings and they wanted to find a way to renew those offerings to better serve their membership and they came up with something called the Aspire CD:

“This was a person from our accounting department […] who has no background in product development, but came up with this unique concept where members would tell us their goal on the front end and then once they’d achieved their goal, they could pull their money out of the account penalty-free which is different from how CDs usually behave.”

Of course, the value is not just in this new product offering, but in the way that the discussion around ideas evolves and idea authors can learn new skills and about other parts of the business. As Woods says “the value is the discussion, not the ideas themselves.” Which means that innovation catalysts aren’t just stewarding good ideas, but nurturing and investing in intrapreneurs, which is why at Lake Trust Credit Union they have an internal university where they engage partners to teach employees and host innovation immersions. These programs are a perfect opportunity for HR to skill up their workforce and build the future of the company.

Listen to the full interview with Lake Trust Credit Union and learn how they increase collaboration and engagement.

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.

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