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An Innovation Manager Is A Futurologist

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series The Twelve Hats of an Innovation Manager

…Did you know that innovation managers have to wear lots of different hats? In other words, they have to perform many different functions for an organisation. That is why we put together this series – The Twelve Hats Of An Innovation Manager – to describe all the different types of roles that innovation managers play.

In this post, we cover one of the most exciting (but challenging) roles that the innovation manager performs: the futurologist!

It might sound like science-fiction, but to some degree, a great innovation manager must predict the future. Why is the future so important? Well, especially in the product development world, no product lasts forever. Even the best ones are disrupted by changing preferences, market shifts, and evolving business models.

These changes can be predicted by a variety of methods. The innovation futurologist must comprehend them all and apply them to their decision-making. When wearing the futurologist cap, the innovation manager also works hand-in-hand with the strategist to research future trends that impact the company. The projections inform the corporate foresight which plays an important role in how strategies are realised and how new innovations are searched for (and developed)!

Interestingly, some of the most common shifts for a company’s products follow a predictable cycle of growth and maturity. This cycle is known in product development circles as The S-Curve.

Predicting the future with models

Futurologists use forward-thinking methodologies and science-based approaches to predicting the trajectory of the company and its products. In one popular theory, the S-Curve, the success of a new product is charted along a graph with time and revenue as the two variables.

At launch, the new product demonstrates growth in revenue as more customers purchase the product and receive value. However, as a product ages, it reaches an eventual “flattening out” of this growth due to a variety of circumstances. At this flat point, there may be numerous challenges to contend with:

  • The target customers have mostly all been reached;
  • More competition emerges, which sucks revenue out of the company;
  • Hype for the new product falters and so the product loses luster in the minds of consumers; or,
  • Poor customer feedback and customer service issues take a toll on the product.

There may be many more reasons why the product reaches a state of diminishing returns. Whatever the case, it is the futurologist’s job to sense the flattening of the curve, and offer new solutions.

For many, this moment of flattening revenue is a time to dump the product and flee to other ideas. However, the savvy futurologist knows that the inflection point along the S-Curve is the ideal opportunity to innovate the product further. At the inflection point, it is time to improve the offering, using customer feedback and lessons from the marketplace, and launch product 2.0.

With product iterations, the trajectory of the curve can once again bend upwards in a satisfactory manner, thus giving the theory its name of the S-Curve. The challenging part of making predictions in this theory is to know when the innovation window is open. The best futurologists can predict this change with quantitative prediction by looking at metrics. In addition, by leveraging innovation as a continual process, futurologists know that the innovation window can never be missed!

…Be on the lookout for the rest of our exclusive series – The Twelve Hats Of An Innovation Manager – on our innovation-themed blog! In it, you can learn everything you need to know about the other diverse (and sometimes chaotic) job descriptions that the innovation manager must embrace on a day-to-day basis.

Series Navigation<< An Innovation Manager Is A Patent Manager, Too!An Innovation Manager Is A Funding Manager >>

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