Unlocking the Critical Functions for Innovation (Part 2/3)

Sunday, April 15, 2018
Author: Alan Fusfeld

Unlocking the Critical Functions for Innovation (Part 2/3)

2. What are the critical (human) skills for innovation and how do the needs vary by stage?

The skills for significant innovation are both technical and human. The technical skills will be fairly obvious, such as engineering, science, product design, etc. The human skills, however, are where the magic in innovation happens – Some people have natural abilities in one stage of the innovation process more than another.

Research since the 1950s on the human skills important for innovation have identified seven types of skills. These are:

  • a. Idea Generation – very important at the beginning and is about the quality of the idea
  • b. Entrepreneurship – very important to validate the idea will be valuable and to whom
  • c. Project Management – keeps track by stage that people and resources are doing everything that is needed and on schedule
  • d. Information Gatekeeping – assures that outside information gets to the team for solving problems or providing user feedback
  • e. Problem Solving – focused and efficient in removing technical or other roadblocks
  • f. Sponsorship – provides funds or people to move the innovation from idea to production
  • g. Quality Control –constructive criticism which anticipates/ avoids problems

The seven human skills for innovation represent the skills needed for success. They may all be present in a single individual or they may be present in several individuals working together as a team. Think of each skill as a “tool”. We use different “tools” from time to time based upon the challenges that we face or the requirements of a task. We need to be aware of which “tools’ are most important to a particular stage of innovation and if a “tool” that is needed is not among our skills, then we need to find someone who has that “tool” easily available.

Collectively, these skills or “tools” are known as the “critical functions’ for innovation.

As next steps, we suggest that you consider three questions:

  • 1. How do we know which “tools” we have or which “tools” others have?
  • 2. How do we know it (a critical function for innovation), if we see it?
  • and
  • 3. What are some of the most common combinations that are used together?

(Continued on Part 3)


Alan Fusfeld is the President and CEO of The Fusfeld Group
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