Gina O’Connor and her colleagues at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School of Management have studied breakthrough innovation inside corporations for many years. In Radical Innovation (2000), the team looked at project teams working on breakthrough innovations, and in Grabbing Lightning (2008), they investigated the management systems associated with effective innovation practice. The team has recently focused its research on the people side of the equation. In Beyond the Champion: Institutionalizing Innovation Through People, due out in December 2017, she and her co-authors identify nine distinct roles required to commercialize breakthrough innovation effectively, along with several leadership and support roles. One person may play several roles in practice, but all of the roles must be filled if the innovation effort is to succeed. In this interview, she discusses the roles, the ideal characteristics of the people who fill them, and the career paths organizations can design to create a repeatable innovation capability.
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Volume 60, Issue 4, July-August 2017