Whether it’s in reference to cutting-edge technologies or profound manufacturing solutions, innovation can be defined as the use of new methods and ideas to execute tasks.
Effective innovation can define the path of an entire business, which is why individuals who possess innovation skills are often lauded and highly desired by employers.
What are innovation skills?
You might think that innovation is all about creativity. While that’s partly true, arguably more important is the ability to accept and adapt to change.
This provides you with a growth mindset; allowing you to embrace new developments as they occur in your environment, economy, or technology. Embracing change allows you to harness it and apply creativity towards new methods and ideas.
Many of the most important innovation skills therefore revolve around this growth mindset.
“Innovation requires multidisciplinary skills: effective innovation often combines skills from various domains, such as technology, business, design, and psychology,” explains Manuel López Martín De Blas, vice dean of Business Tech Programs at IE Business School.
That includes critical thinking, which allows you to identify potential areas of improvement; adaptability, which ensures you can respond to new developments; risk-taking, which is required when implementing new ideas; and confidence, which is essential when trying to bring new approaches into fruition.
“Innovation is becoming increasingly important in today's economy. Having those skills opens new positions to our students,” Manuel adds.
Companies value innovation skills because they can help gain an advantage over competitors and secure the future of an organization. So, what kind of career opportunities open up to you after developing your innovation skills?
4 Career Paths That Utilize Innovation Skills
Intrarpreneurship relies on the kind of innovation skills that are typically required when launching a new business, however they are instead used within an existing company.
Intrapreneurs pursue innovative new ideas that have the potential to lead to new products, services, or market opportunities for their business. It’s a highly impactful career path that typically offers fewer risks than launching a startup.
For Zubin Chagpar, intrapreneurship is key within his role at Microsoft, where he is group leader for Modern Work and Surface Devices.
“My role is modern work and cybersecurity, and I lead that for the Middle East and Africa. It’s a solution area that expands in a lot of different ways to address modern work,” he explains.
Zubin developed a variety of skills that help channel his intrapreneurial thinking while studying the IE International MBA program. Chief among which was the ability to learn from those around him within the diverse MBA cohort.
“Even though I felt that I had a global understanding; when you have to work daily, and learn daily with people from different countries—sometimes countries you’ve never been to, met anybody from, and sometimes even countries you’ve never heard of—that puts it on another level.”
Socio-political pressure, regulatory changes, and the need to gain an edge in a competitive innovation space ensures that sustainability is a key focus area for businesses today, both large and small.
Innovation skills can provide you with opportunities to join pioneering startups within the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) space, or help a Fortune 500 firm transition to a greener business model.
For Yoko Kojima, learning fundamental business theories during her MBA at IE helped grow her confidence and ability to take risks. Delving into specialist topics such as impact investing and entrepreneurship also helped launch her career in sustainability after graduation. Today, she is head of ESG at a venture capital firm.
“Learning how to take risks and be somewhat half-blind, with the faith that I can get something out of it or step up my game if I take this risk, that is essential for my profession,” she says.
As a function, consulting focuses on finding problems and identifying solutions. While that may sound simple, it’s often a highly challenging task that requires a broad skill set and the ability to think both critically and creatively.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that consulting is a top industry for business school graduates. This is particularly true for MBAs, who can utilize their holistic business acumen to identify problems for their clients.
But, with a key focus on finding and implementing new solutions, consultancy is also a career path that lends itself to innovation skills.
Of course, no list of career paths that rely on innovation skills would be complete without the inclusion of entrepreneurship. It’s a well-fitting career path for those with innovation skills because it revolves, fundamentally, around change.
The role of an entrepreneur is to identify a problem and propose their own product, service, or method to provide the solution. It requires practically all innovation skills in equal measure: from critical thinking when identifying a problem, to risk-taking when implementing the solution, to confidence when seeing it through.
For Mitsuya Shimura, the mindset shift he underwent after leading his home in Japan to develop his knowledge and skills during the IE MBA helped prepare him to found his own business, M-Capital GK, after graduation.
“IE awakened the entrepreneurial spirit that had been lurking inside me,” he explains. “In the conservative society that is Japan, it is quite difficult to shift from the employee side to the entrepreneur side, but thanks to the entrepreneurial mindset that the IMBA program provided with me, the shift was relatively smooth for me.”