These past two days, in the driving snow and rain, a group called the Thought Leadership Institute met in Philadelphia. They are a professional organization of human resources management leaders from a variety of companies, spanning services, pharmaceuticals, High-Tech, to industrial firms. They call themselves Talent Acquisition and Talent Management professionals. I was invited to speak about the topic of Career Paths for Innovation Experts, which we described in a very brief article in Harvard Business review (Dec 2009 issue) that their organizing committee saw.
Wow, what an experience. While some of them could not relate, a number of them really resonated with the problem. But their concern is just bordering on the issue of what to do with these people once they find them. Their major concern is how and where to find them and what should the skills be? One woman mentioned that the Sr. Vice President of Innovation and Marketing (another interesting title!) is trying to hire
a VP of Innovation. But everyone this Talent Acquisition woman finds for him is unsatisfactory. Yet he cannot articulate to her what he is looking for.
Others in the audience expressed the following concerns:
1. Many of the people in the company who have innovation skills have left or have been sidelined because they grate on the corporate nerves…they can be irritating.
2. Senior leadership wants to build an innovation group, and is great at telling us who they want in it now, but they cannot tell us (the Talent Management people who are concerned about such matters) what their plans are for these people.
So, I left them with a challenge: Who will join us for Phase III of the Radical Innovation Research Program? We need 6-7 companies, each of whom has a declared strategic intent to build a capability for breakthrough innovation, and has been at it for a bit, and is concerned with the issue of Talent Management. Talent Acquisition is key, but the killer, we’ve found, is how to develop meaningful career paths for these
people. If innovation is truly emerging as the next business function, this problem has to be solved.
We have three companies signed up so far…..and others are following on !!!