When we talk about innovation, it can take many different forms as part of the corporate org chart and cultural norms. For some organizations, particularly mature businesses, innovation is deeply rooted in core brands and categories, helping to build brands through highly efficient operational and sales systems. While other organizations are continually seeking something breakthrough by building distinct innovation teams with skills across a number of disciplines, including branding, finance, insights development, as well as soft skills like storytelling and influencing.

As a corporate innovator, do you consider innovation to be your job, or is innovation your career?

The answer to that question can be highly influenced by how your organization positions innovation roles.  Some corporations embed innovation within brand or category teams, using innovation as one of many growth levers for existing core businesses. Often these innovation roles are development rotations, rounding out the skills and business acumen of marketers as they move up within the organization. It’s a job, a stepping stone for the next role, and an excellent way to understand the practicalities of how innovation works within your own organization. For marketers who are passionate about branding and category, and are seeking to build their marketing skill set, it’s a great career builder.

Other corporations see innovation as a distinct career path, with a clear entry point, often starting as a project manager or analyst, with a trajectory that helps build skills in creative, strategic and operational thinking specific to innovation. Innovation might ladder up to a Chief Innovation Officer, but it might also report to a CMO or Chief Strategy Officer. The reporting lines are less important than the organizational focus on a deep bench of innovative thinkers and doers. These roles are more likely to encourage disruptive thinking, as they are in for the long haul, and have the time to work through solving more complex consumer problems to be solved. Corporate innovators who are passionate about their work, and who have conviction and confusion tolerance can find great satisfaction and growth opportunities in these types of organizations.

Many corporations have a hybrid of these approaches, with near-term innovation sitting with brands and categories, while longer-term innovation exists as a unique team focused on transformational growth. Both approaches can be fulfilling personally and professionally. Understanding your corporation’s approach, and how it aligns with your career goals, is the key to the right innovation fit. Corporate innovation leaders should work to clearly define their approach and career runway for innovation teams, in order to ensure they have the right people in the right organizational make up with the right career path for them.

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