Middle Managers: The Forgotten Heroes of Innovation - Deepstash
Middle Managers: The Forgotten Heroes of Innovation

Middle Managers: The Forgotten Heroes of Innovation

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Building a Support Network to Implement Promising Ideas

Integrating innovation throughout a company is crucial to ensure a continuous flow of creative and actionable ideas. This requires the existence of a formal innovation network that sits alongside the execution engine and supports and incentivises the involvement of middle management.

While they are the oft-forgotten foot soldiers of innovation, they play a key role in championing and channelling promising ideas to implementation.


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Creation And Integration

Creation needs to take place across the company. Innovation is often just defined as R&D. But that’s not enough; it’s important to involve everyone in the innovation process and make it accessible across the company.

Integration is the process by which the dispersed innovating capabilities and resources within a firm are brought together into a corporate-wide innovating capability.


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The Process Of Integration

The integration process encompasses two main elements: “connecting the dots” between all the new ideas that are springing up from around the organisation; and selecting, channelling and testing those ideas and deciding whether they are worthy of implementation. 


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The Role Of Middle Managers

  • Senior leaders must face the reality of an increasingly uncertain business environment, so they naturally recognise the need for continuous innovation.
  • Frontline employees are interacting with customers and their issues on a daily basis, so they, too, fully grasp the need for innovation.
  • Middle managers are typically focused on the execution engine, which means they can often be detached from the pressures to innovate, even seeing time spent on innovation as an unwelcome distraction from day-to-day objectives.


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The Importance Of Middle Managers

Middle managers are a vital part of innovation, without them, innovation is lost.

It is middle managers who have the power to give employees the time and motivation to innovate. And it is the middle managers who can make sure that any ideas generated are refined, filtered and, if worthwhile, brought to the attention of senior leaders.


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Making Innovation Accessible: Bayer Example

This cross-company innovation framework at Bayer is supported by WeSolve, a digital platform that allows all employees to post any challenges or problems they are facing. Issues submitted can range from a frontline worker in Spain trying to help farmers monitor pesticide levels, to a manager in India asking for brand name suggestions for a new product.

The critical part is that any employee from any department, regardless of job title or training, can visit the forum and post potential solutions to any challenge.


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