The Future of Work: 4 Key Skills for Digital Innovation

Industry Advice Business

Tucker Marion, innovation professor and Chair of Technological Entrepreneurship at Northeastern, shares the four key skills required for effective digital innovation.

In a recent article published in MIT Sloan Management Review, we discussed four critical skills businesses need to be innovative in the future.

Since the publishing of this article, with the additional complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for these skills has only amplified. Most of us are now virtual workers, trying to navigate rapid changes in how we communicate and collaborate. We’re virtual digital workers, 24-7.

Yet this digitization of work is just the first step, as using these tools alone cannot digitally transform a firm. For that, one needs to foster the development of new skills within their employee ranks.

As we move forward in this decade, there are four skills innovators will need in order to excel. Below we explore what these four skills entail and how innovation courses from a top university like Northeastern can help prepare professionals for the challenges of the future.

4 Key Skills For Heightened Innovation

1. Omniscient Thinking

Innovators today need to establish a higher level of thinking and consistently consider the entire ecosystem of innovation. It’s important that you understand the end user all the way to the front end of R&D. Navigating all the stakeholders through that process, and the tools used to stitch all of it together is a foundational skill needed to be a change agent within your organization. What’s more, it is really a systems-level perspective in understanding all the different facets of how you innovate effectively in this changing landscape.

2. An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Being able to think differently about the potential for digital transformation is the key to radically reinventing the connection between products and services. In one of the examples in the article, we discuss Dental Wings. This is a company that reinvented the process of dental implants, using digital tools ranging from 3D printing to medical digital platforms. As a corporate venturer, you need to think about ways you can use digital tools to transform business models. How can you best use digital platforms, additive manufacturing, big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to move your business forward in a manner that focuses on the user, while improving operational efficiency?

3. A Bottom-Line Focus

Think about how you can use digital tools and data to transform R&D, operations, and manufacturing. In one of the examples in the article, we reference a traditional consumer products company that has radically changed its R&D organization to focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital transformation of design. This has changed their focus from traditional engineering toward the implementation of a central digital innovation group. They are using AI to change how design is performed, from customer needs to design and test. From an organizational perspective, this is shifting focus from mechanical and industrial design to digitally enhanced creation. Expect creative application of design and AI to blossom over the next five years.

4. Ethical Intelligence

This is what we consider the human side of innovation. As we transform, the people side of the equation becomes increasingly important. There are still human stakeholders throughout the value chain, and given the power of data and analytics, one needs to consider the effects that data and its ability to inform and reshape human behavior and outcomes, both inside the corporation and outside becomes an essential facet of being an effective innovation manager.

Take the Next Step

Northeastern’s business programs offer students the chance to specialize in concentrations like corporate innovation that embed these four skills into the expansive curriculum. In this concentration, you will learn about technology dynamics, new types of business models, how to better understand customer needs, and how to be a more effective leader, among others. You will also have the chance to work as part of real-world organizations through hands-on, experiential learning projects—an unparalleled opportunity to move your career forward while completing your degree.

Looking to learn more about the MBA programs at Northeastern? Explore our program page to learn more about the curriculum, faculty, application requirements, and more, then get in touch with our enrollment coaches for personalized advice.