8 skills your innovation team is missing

If building an entrepreneurial culture is one of your company objectives, a key aspect to consider is the people that you hire. Successful innovation in the 21st century depends on the engagement of the entire organization—not just the leadership.

When building a more entrepreneurial culture, ask yourself:

  • Are you hiring staff with entrepreneurial skills and traits?
  • Are you providing the right training to develop entrepreneurial skills?
  • Are your managers skilled at developing and honing entrepreneurship within their teams?

What are the essential entrepreneurial skills?

A quick Google search yields more than 40 different skills cited as key to entrepreneurial success. However, these skills were mentioned more frequently than others, in the following order:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Leadership & motivation
  3. Selling
  4. Interpersonal skills & relationship management
  5. Persistence & resiliency
  6. Curiosity & learning
  7. Risk tolerance
  8. Ability to recognize opportunities

The LinkedIn experiment

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if companies looking for increased strength in innovation were hiring for these skills. It was a simple experiment: I searched on LinkedIn for job postings from organizations with more than 50 employees that had the word “innovation” in the job title. There were fewer posts than I expected and I reviewed the first nine that met the criteria.

Here’s what I found:

  • Of the eight essential skills listed above, the postings required, on average, 2.33 entrepreneurial skills.
  • One job posting listed none of the eight skills.
  • “Communication” was in eight of the nine postings as a required skill—a skill that is required for pretty much every job these days.
  • The only job posting that looked remotely like a job dealing with innovation listed six of the skills in addition to explicitly asking for a candidate with an entrepreneurial mindset.
  • None of the job postings required “curiosity & learning” and “risk tolerance” among the key skills and only one of them asked for the ability to recognize opportunities.

Overwhelmingly, the emphasis of the job postings was on technical skillsets, functional experience (none that predict innovation) and organizational efficiency (which is understandably important for large organizations).

This focus suggests that these organizations are not really planning on or expecting innovation to result from their hiring efforts. Of course, putting innovation in the title may be perceived as making the posting ‘sexy,’ and the recruiter may have simply wanted a smaller applicant pool.

But if that’s the case, where are all the real innovation jobs?

I did a second job search on LinkedIn, this time looking for “corporate development” roles. This is the type of job that I would expect to have innovation as an intrinsic part. My search turned up five postings for corporate development roles at director and manager levels. Only one mentioned innovation as a key area of responsibility.

In other words, wannabe intrapreneurs are facing slim job prospects at the moment.

What’s the best way to integrate entrepreneurial skills into a large organization?

At MaRS, we’ll be discussing this with companies at our upcoming corporate innovation conference, MaRS Verge. Join us to learn how to make innovation work at your organization!

LEARN MORE ABOUT MARS VERGE 2016

Jon E Worren

Jon E Worren is the senior director of venture and corporate programs at MaRS. He is responsible for identifying new innovation and entrepreneurship practices and creating tools and resources that help both intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs to be more successful. Jon is also an instructor in Entrepreneurship at University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. He holds a Master of Science in Media & Communication from London School of Economics and a Master of Science in Business and Economics from the Norwegian School of Management. See more…