program manager

INNOVATION MASTERY: Putting The Players In Place: The Program Manager

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This episode: Program Manager

Once you have secured your sponsor, you will need a program manager to create and run the program. I’m assuming that’s you.

Good Luck!

OK, I’m kidding. The fact is that while you may have the most challenging role, keeping all of this moving forward, you also have the most rewarding. There is nothing like seeing the ideas submitted by your inventors being viewed and reviewed. Nothing like the amazing engagement and excitement a program like this elicits among your employees. There is nothing like the thrill when you hear how someone’s idea was selected from so many others to become an actual product or go into the patent pipeline. When you see your inventors, your employees, joining in and being excited and engaged with the future directions of your company. No longer are they simply pushing bits around, but they are genuinely contributing to your company’s future welfare. It’s a great feeling.

Of course, on the flip side, there are many barriers to overcome, but your role is to manage everything that comes along, knock down those barriers, and keep moving forward. You will:

  1. Design the parameters of the program and get the executive sponsor
  2. Work with your internal marketing team to develop a program theme that fits your culture. The positioning of the program is critical to its success. Some people feel it’s all about the tool and the processes used to capture and process the ideas, but in reality, it’s more about the overall program than the technology.
  3. Work with your HR people to position this as an employee motivation program, an ideation program, and an educational and training program. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, an innovation program, especially an enterprise-wide program, has a fantastic ability to motivate even the most jaded workforce, assuming that it’s done correctly (otherwise known as “following the principles in this book”)
  4. Work with your legal team to figure out the patent side of things. Depending on your company’s current stance on intellectual property (which we will cover more in chapter 6), you may be entirely prepared to funnel patentable ideas

As the program manager, you are the key to making this whole thing work. No pressure! But seriously, there may be some days when you are ready to give up, some days when you feel like you are battling the entire company to move a few steps forward, and some days when you genuinely wonder if people mean what they say when they say “innovate or die”. Sometimes it will feel like the inverse, that your organization’s last need is to innovate.

We’ve all read the Innovator’s Dilemma, and we understand that a company that does not innovate will eventually be overcome by competitive forces and die. We all understand (well, most of us do anyways) that innovation is not a force to be feared but the next evolutionary step in your company’s future. Your innovation program is the womb that will birth new products, new services, and eventually new companies to replace your own. If you think of it that way, innovation and disruption is a natural way of life. We disrupt our parents, our children will disrupt us, and so on.

OK, I beat that metaphor up. Let’s move on to the rest of your team.