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Challenges for the Innovation Manager in establishing authority

This module is designed to support MLA’s Co-Innovation Managers. These roles are critical to fostering innovation and adoption in the red meat sector. However, it is relevant to Innovation Managers in any organisation.

Innovation Managers help organisations identify innovation needs and then manage these initiatives through the process of development and implementation. The challenge for many Innovation Managers is they don’t have positional authority – that is, they don’t have budget control or manage a team. To succeed they must engage other managers and teams to achieve their outcomes. They can’t use traditional leadership methods of command and control as these simply don’t work, so they must develop the capability to lead from behind.

This module is designed to provide an overview of the skills and tools to help Innovation Managers succeed in their roles and lead from behind.

What are the challenges in Innovation Manager roles?

Innovation Managers are employed in a company because of their unique expertise in innovation and business improvement, which is applicable across the organisation. They will typically have a cross-functional responsibility and report to the CEO or Executive team, who may not have the same technical expertise. They need to be able to implement significant change, outside of business as usual (BAU), without the authority bestowed by a title, budget and team.

They generally find that:

  • others don’t understand their role
  • people are intimidated by the idea of innovation and have a “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it mentality”
  • they have to deal with internal politics.
  • other managers don’t want to co-operate because they don’t understand the need, they’re too busy or for other reasons
  • innovation projects are perceived to be less important than BAU
  • Innovation Managers don’t have access to the Executive team.

Innovation Managers need to collaborate, persuade and inspire. They need to be able to lead from behind.

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