The importance of managing innovation as a process is one of our key themes here. Because the success of any single great idea is pretty close to impossible to predict, the best way to successfully innovate is to try a lot of things, and to manage ideas through a process. If you do this, you can become better at innovating.
So innovation can be managed. But can innovation management become a profession? Should it even try?
Howard Gardner and Lee Shulman list six characteristics of professions in an article in Daedalus from 2005 called The professions in America today: crucial but fragile:
- a commitment to serve in the interests of clients in particular and the welfare of society in general;
- a body of theory or special knowledge with its own principles of growth and reorganization;
- a specialized set of professional skills, practices, and performances unique to the profession;
- the developed capacity to render judgments with integrity under conditions of both technical and ethical uncertainty;
- an organized approach to learning from experience both individually and collectively and, thus, of growing new knowledge from the contexts of practice;
- and the development of a professional community responsible for the oversight and monitoring of quality in both practice and professional education.
Many of these are things worth striving for – but we certainly still have a way to go to establish a set of skills unique to the profession & in the development of a professional community. Developing a community of professional innovation managers could go a long way towards improving the practice and outcomes of innovation efforts.
On the other hand, maybe trying to make the process of innovation management routine actually takes all of the innovation out of the process.
I’m not entirely sure what I think of the idea myself, so I thought I’d just throw it out to you.
Do you think innovation management should try to be more like a profession?
If so, what do we need to focus on improving to get there?
Tim Kastelle is a Lecturer in Innovation Management in the University of Queensland Business School. He blogs about innovation at the Innovation Leadership Network.