How many innovation hats do you wear?

In online collaborative innovation, a project leader must fulfill several roles as different phases of the innovation process require different actions.

Sometimes the project leader has to design the online campaign, then he or she must engage participants and manage the project. Along the way they have to make decisions and report results.

Here are six roles the innovation project leader can expect to fill during an innovation’s lifecycle.

1. The Host It is your job to outline and communicate the purpose of the innovation program. First, tell people why they are participating. Clarify why this program is critical for the company’s overall success and demonstrate how ideas will be considered and reviewed – this adds a layer of transparency to the process and encourages participation.

2. The Journalist The journalist wants answers. He or she finds those answers by asking the right questions. These may be open-ended to promote creativity. You might ask, “What steps can be taken to cut costs in the organization?” Or questions can be narrow in order to direct people on a specific path: “How can we improve efficiencies in our product line that will produce savings in materials?”

3. The On-Air Personality When working on large-scale innovation, effective communication is vital. Clarify who you want to participate. Outline the details of the program to participants and include clear instructions on how to participate. Explain how participants’ input will be used to better the company.

4. The Coach The coach decides how players will play the game. First, draft your players. You will decide what the draft will look like and how it will be run. Recruit some assistant coaches who can arbitrate the game. Call time outs: stop collecting ideas and review progress so far. Work individually with players to help them better understand their role on the team. It is also important to maintain a relationship with the team owner (business sponsor). Call outside meetings to review the game film.

5. The Commander Make decisions about which ideas will have the greatest impact on the end goal. Take the time to work with subject matter experts on the criteria you developed. Keep this process flexible so you can make changes to your strategy. Ask the experts about what the next steps should be and how to identify the best ideas.

6. The Guru Finally, decide on how you will report the results of the innovation program. What did the program reveal? Was it a success? Extract common themes and report on your cultural observations.

In order to be successful in each role, leaders must utilize different skills. They must be good organizers, facilitators, consultants and researchers. A multi-disciplinary leader will lead a high quality collaborative campaign.

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