Innovation Competency Model

Innovation Competency ModelTo build innovation muscle, companies must include innovation in their competency models. A competency is a persistent pattern of behavior resulting from a cluster of knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations. Competency models formalize that behavior and make it persistent. They prescribe the ideal patterns needed for exceptional performance. They help diagnose and evaluate employee performance. It takes a lot of work to develop one, but it’s worth it.

Here is a nice example of an innovation competency modeled developed at Central Michigan University through a collaboration of authors. It could be customized to address the specific needs of a company or industry.

Core Competencies of Innovation


  • Generating Ideas: Coming up with a variety of approaches to problem solving.
  • Critical Thinking: Logically identifying how different possible approaches are strong and weak, and analyzing these judgments.
  • Synthesis/Reorganization: Finding a better way to approach problems through synthesizing and reorganizing the information.
  • Creative Problem Solving: Using novel ideas to solve problems as a leader.


  • Identifying Problem: Pinpointing the actual nature and cause of problems and the dynamics that underlie them.
  • Seeking Improvement: Constantly looking for ways that one can improve one’s organization.
  • Gathering Information: Identifying useful sources of information and gathering and utilizing only that information which is essential.
  • Independent Thinking: Thinking ‘outside the box’ even if this sometimes may go against popular opinion.
  • Technological Savvy: Understanding and utilizing technology to improve work processes.

Integrating Perspectives

  • Openness to Ideas: A willingness to listen to suggestions from others and to try new ideas.
  • Research Orientation: Observing the behavior of others, reading extensively, and keeping your mind open to ideas and solutions from others. Reading and talking to people in related fields to discover innovations or current trends in the field.
  • Collaborating: Working with others and seeking the opinions of others to reach a creative solution.
  • Engaging in Non-Work Related Interests: Being well-rounded and seeking information from other fields and areas of life to find novel approaches to situations.


  • Perceiving Systems: Acknowledging important changes that occur in a system or predicting accurately when they might occur.
  • Evaluating Long-Term Consequences: Concluding what a change in systems will result in long-term
  • Visioning: Developing an image of an ideal working state of an organization.
  • Managing the Future: Evaluating future directions and risks based on current and future strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Managing Change

  • Sensitivity to Situations: Assessing situational forces that are promoting and inhibiting an idea for change.
  • Challenging the Status Quo: Willingness to act against the way things have traditionally been done when tradition impedes performance improvements.
  • Intelligent Risk-Taking: Being willing and able to take calculated risks when necessary.
  • Reinforcing Change: Encouraging subordinates to come up with innovative solutions. Recognizing and rewarding those who take initiative and act in a creative manner. Facilitating the institutionalization of change initiatives.

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Drew BoydDrew Boyd is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MS-Marketing program. Follow him at and at

Drew Boyd




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