2007/10/29

Questions About Innovation for Potential Employers

Here are a few questions to consider asking your potential employers when evaluating their level of and commitment to innovation.

As mentioned in a previous post, you are more likely to enjoy your job if you work at a company which is truly innovative. Prior to asking these questions of a potential employer, you should do as much research as possible about these questions. After doing this research, you'll be able to more intelligently phrase your questions. You'll also have a good feel for what some of the answers should be, so you can see how well their replies match up with what your research has shown.

Different questions about innovation may be more appropriate for various organizations, and there are many other questions you can ask to better understand innovation at a given company. However, here are eight to use as a starting point.
  1. Who is the company innovation leader, and what people at the company are involved in innovation?
  2. Which four or five innovations does the organization feel are the most valuable ones it introduced in the past two years?
  3. What innovations are expected in the next year? In the next three years? (The person you're talking to will likely answer in very general terms or decline to answer this question. The purpose of the question is to understand what expectations you should have for being involved in innovation if you take a job with the organization.)
  4. What is the company's budget for innovation, or how does the company allocate resources to innovation?
  5. What innovation collaborators and resources outside the organization are available to employees of the organization?
  6. How does the company enable and encourage innovation networking and collaboration both within and outside the organization?
  7. How does the organization balance resources focused on the two conflicting goals of evolutionary innovation vs incremental innovation? (Related to The Innovator's Dilemma)
  8. A highly innovative environment will generate innovation opportunities either tangential to or irrelevant to the organization's business. How does the organization deal with those innovation opportunities, in terms of either spinning them off as a separate business entity, allowing the people involved with that opportunity to pursue it independently, or preventing anyone from taking the innovation idea to market?
There are many other facets of an organization to consider when evaluating if that organization is a good fit for you. However, your enjoyment of a position at the organization depends quite a bit on whether their innovation culture is one which meets your needs.

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