Could You Pass the Innovation Professional Test?

Guest Post by Brett Trusko

Maybe you walk the innovation talk, but are you an innovation leader–someone who will lead your company to new heights? Developing such leaders is one aim of the The International Association of Innovation Professionals (IAOIP), which offers the certified professional innovator program. IAOIP, which has partnered with CIMS on several initiatives, provides study guides and other learning opportunities to help prepare those who want to prepare for the certification exam. The following article by IAOIP President Brett Trusko features sample questions from the organization’s study guides; it’s excerpted from the November/December issue of the CIMS Innovation Management Report (IMR). Take the quiz yourself, then share it with your colleagues. No cheating!

Directions: Fill in the blanks with the letter representing the word or phrase that best completes each statement, answer True/False, or check multiple responses.

Q1: A culture that supports innovation activity is one that supports creating and __________ teams.

A. strictly managing B. nurturing collaborative C. defining each role for each member of the team co-locating

Q2: True or False: It is easy and inexpensive to change an organization’s culture into one that supports innovation activity.

Q3: An organization’s goal should be for leaders to take their teams and their organizations to a place where ___________________ is responsible for innovation every day.

A. the CEO  B. the Chief Innovation Officer C.  everyone, everywhere D. the innovation team  E.  the Board of Directors?

Q4: Which three of the following are most critical for an innovation leader? (Check three that apply.)

Possible Answers: A. organizing work  B. finding ways around obstacles  C. assigning the right people to the necessary tasks  D. testing new ideas  E. building comfort with risk

Q5: The leader’s role as a “futurist” involves all of the following EXCEPT:

  A. Scouting trends that can impact the enterprise B. Making these trends visible for others C. Encouraging people to be on the lookout for important trends themselves, and to bring important info back to their teams and leaders D. Designing means for external trends to be brought into the organization on a regular basis  E. Building a future-oriented culture.

Creating an Innovative Organization

Bear with me for a moment before I reveal the answers. Innovation culture is more than just foosball and free lunch. Just as it is difficult to build a highly functional family, it is difficult to create a highly functional innovative organization. There are always members of the organization who may not understand the grand scheme of things; the trick, just like in a family, is to instill confidence that there is a higher purpose to the changes being introduced.

As a leader, speaker, lecturer, and consultant in innovation, I am fortunate to work with some of the top executive leaders. Many times, I am also their family counselor when they confide their organization’s deepest, darkest secrets to me. Most of the time, it isn’t a pretty picture. People play roles in their organizations such as prophet, conqueror, bureaucrat, gatekeeper, and treasurer. Although all of these functions are necessary, they are not always consistent with being innovative.

“Fail fast” is a favorite, incorrectly used term that so many people use when they go bankrupt. The truth is that the term should actually be “recognize failure fast, then fix it or get out,” but that wouldn’t be a good title for a book. Employees who understand their role in the innovation effort also understand that they are all critical to this modified version of “fail fast.”

The trick to getting the culture right is to recognize and communicate to all these individuals that their role is critical, recognized and respected. Just as the prophet wants the “perfect” product that he or she envisions, the conqueror wants to get it to market quickly and take over the world, while the treasurer wants to preserve the kingdom’s resources.

One can choose to compromise or embrace the opportunity to be a member of a dynamic team of innovators. A great culture for innovation is one where everyone recognizes that they are on an innovation team, and that sometimes they just need to avoid the instinct to stop creativity in the name of doing their job. This is the culture of trust, which most organizations have been working on for the last 30 years. Innovation requires that organizations work together but separately with a mutual respect for what everyone brings to the table.

Maybe you had it right when you took your team to a trust and team building exercise—you just didn’t know that you were being clairvoyant about the needs of the organization in building a future of innovation!

Correct Answers

  1. D
  2. Trick question! Depending on the current state of your organization, it may be both easy and inexpensive to change your culture. An assessment is recommended before starting an innovation project to better understand your situation
  3. C
  4. B, D, E
  5. Another trick question. They are all important!–Brett Trusko


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