All roles in the company have a set of desired hard skills and soft skills required to make it a success. Do you have such a list for your innovation roles? Hard skills refer to task related knowledge needed to perform duties effectively. Soft skills are personal qualities that can take this knowledge to the next level. For example –  you give innovation courses. You make sure your employees have robust knowledge in innovation methods. But what are the abilities needed to make sure that all this gets put into actual and lucrative practice?

 Here are the top 10 soft skills people need in order for innovation to thrive:

  1. Tolerance to ambiguity – The ability to take leaps of faith and not have all the answers immediately. There are many points in the innovation process that require time to work things out. (They don’t call it the fuzzy front end for nothing.) Not everything is clear cut, and not every idea is polished and presentable at first. Innovation requires the ability to patiently put the pieces of the puzzle together or wait for them to fall into place, and not disregard or shelf initiatives because the value isn’t staring you in the face from the start.
  2. Accountability – The ability to stand up for and/or behind something. To-do lists need to be made and followed up on, resources and budgets need to be spent wisely, updates and explanations given. The sense of accountability guarantees that the ball doesn’t get dropped.
  3. Vulnerability – The ability to put yourself out there. In a previous blog post about vulnerability, we talked about how no vulnerability=no creativity. Innovation requires us to put ourselves in risky situations where things may or may not work out, people may say yes or no, things may flop –and with all that – still have the courage to stick our neck out.
  4. Teamwork – The ability to work with people. It takes a village to get a new idea off the ground. Engineers, marketing, HR, scientists. You need to be able to play nicely with others and not tick them off. You also need to be able to inspire your project group to function as a team, ensuring everyone has a say and preventing individuals from taking over.
  5. Cheerleader (e.g. positive attitude, enthusiasm, motivation) – The ability to keep the energy going and things moving forward. Troops need to be rallied, hurdles overcome, and an abundance of positive energy to get buy-in to ideas. It’s the ability to prevent yourself (and others) from getting disheartened when processes drag out longer than expected, and to self-motivate when things seem at a standstill.
  6. Active listening – The ability to hear people out and help them form their thoughts into coherent concepts that can be acted upon, noticing what’s being said and what’s the elephant in the room. Innovation processes involve people, and each one will have their ideas, opinions and areas of expertise for how things should get done.
  7. Critical Thinking – The ability to process information, sifting the good ideas from the bad. This skill also includes prioritizing, where to put efforts, and how to make things work (and when to call it quits).
  8. Communication skills –  The ability to articulate to others your vision, keep superiors and teammates updated with your progress, and making sure everyone directly or indirectly involved is speaking the same language as you.
  9. Flexibility – The ability to roll with the punches. Innovation projects often evolve when the original circumstances, resources, and legislation change. As more or new information comes in, you need to be able to pivot as necessary, and switch to Plan B or C.
  10. Problem Solving – The ability to spot and troubleshoot issues as they surface without giving up or tanking the whole project. Not being afraid to ask for help of experts if needed.