PILOT - Talent Management for Corporate Innovation Specialists

Initiated:  Spring 2020

Expected completion:  Fall 2021

Kick off webinar: Thursday, April 9 12:00-1:00pm EDT; Register

Value Proposition

Results of this project will lead to stronger confidence in the prescriptions for best practices associated with developing innovation talent beyond R&D that helps create new business platforms based on novel technologies and combinations thereof. 

  • The validated tool will help Innovation Leaders evaluate and select personnel appropriate for Strategic Innovation Roles outlined in the Beyond the Champion book and IRI’s TRACK Program. 
  • The outcome of the second study will show the influence of various Talent Management practices on innovation talent performance and the organization’s breakthrough innovation expertise. Talent management practices that work well and those that do not will be highlighted. The results will provide companies evidence and recommendations to guide the development of innovation personnel, a critical component of their Strategic Innovation organizational capabilities.


The last phase of the Radical Innovation Research program focused on identifying roles to help bring breakthroughs from the exploratory R&D phase to commercial reality in large mature organizations. The work was qualitative in nature and resulted in a number of insights, which were published in the book Beyond the Champion: Institutionalizing Innovation through People. We have moved forward on two fronts:

First, we have designed a selection tool to help organizations assess candidates’ fit for the innovation roles that were identified in the Beyond the Champion study, and we’d like an opportunity to validate that with large mature companies who are concerned with building a capability for breakthrough or strategic innovation. We seek 4-5 companies to help validate this tool by using it and providing specific types of feedback to us. Each participating company would designate a point person who would facilitate administering the tool to personnel who are already working in innovation roles, and also to collect evaluations of those persons’ fit with their roles from their supervisors, using a standard form that we would provide. The data can be made anonymous to us. We are flexible on timing and will adapt to any company representatives’ schedules or proposed approaches for collection of the data.

Secondly, we developed a survey during the Innovation Roles research study with the IRI to test the strength of specific Talent Management practices on organizational Expertise Development for Breakthrough Innovation (BI), and on BI success. The survey has been refined and pre-tested and we’d like the opportunity to test these relationships by collecting data in companies.

As it is currently structured, the survey will need to be completed by pairs within companies. Pairs consist of the Head of R&D or an equivalent who can respond to questions about the R&D budget, percent of R&D budget devoted to breakthrough innovation, and breakthrough innovation outcomes. The second person would be the one who oversees the incubation of Strategic/Breakthrough Innovation, i.e. activities beyond R&D that move breakthrough and evolutionary innovations to commercial reality, or a designee. That person would respond to questions about how such innovation talent is selected, developed and rewarded; the level of Discovery, Incubation and Acceleration capabilities in the Strategic Innovation function, the organizational climate within the innovation group, and the extent to which the talent management practices are working. We are working to simplify the survey to reduce the burden.

Once the survey is streamlined and finalized, we would hold a session of interested companies to provide an overview of the project and answer any questions. Once companies commit to participating we would work with them to identify the best way to collect data.


Winter 2020 Survey completion and participant recruitment among IRI members and abroad
Spring 2020 Interviews with interested IRI members to gather ideas and input
Summer 2020 Finalize experimental setup, continued participant recruitment
Late 2020 - Winter 2021 Data collection
Spring 2021 Final data collection and analysis
IRI Annual Conference 2021 Report out
Fall 2021 RTM article submission

Anticipated Deliverables

RTM paper and a targeted session with project methodology and findings for IRI members. .

Project Leads

Gina O'Connor -  Professor, Babson College 

Andrew Corbett - Paul T. Babson Distinguished Professor of Entreprenuerial Studies & Division Chair, Babson College