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Should I have a career as a strategy and innovation officer?

BY: Brigitte Schwartz|28 February 2019
BLOG| My future career

Studying general management will give you a solid foundation of skills applicable to any future management roles you may take on (read our General Guide to General Management). By covering a broad-based selection of disciplines, it’ll also potentially point you towards roles that naturally align with your talents and interests.


As a new manager, it’s vital you empower yourself to support the knowledge management effort of your organisation, manage change and improve innovation. If you find you have a natural aptitude for knowledge management and a love for all things innovative and inspiring, you might set your sights on a C-Suite level strategy position one day. Like a Chief Visionary Officer (CVO) perhaps?


What are innovation roles?

At C-Suite level, there are lots of innovation-oriented roles across all industries. Chief Innovation Officer remains a stable, along with Chief Strategy Officer. There’s also a ‘newbie’ rising in the ranks as a high paying executive position: Chief Visionary Officer. It’s a title that’s been around since 1994, but it’s taken a while to truly come into its own. A CVO draws on comprehensive knowledge of a business to suggest an overarching strategy and vision to secure the company’s future relevance and success.


This means identifying and predicting future external and internal influences on the business, synergizing departments to collaborate to achieve shared strategies, streamlining communication, and developing all the working plans required to move the company forwards.


A stepping stone towards being CVO is becoming an innovation manager or strategy manager (both senior management roles).


What does a strategy manager do?

A strategy manager helps develop company goals and then creates realistic, working plans for how to achieve these. This means looking at resource- and funding allocations and current systems and processes to ensure all the ‘cogs’ are co-operating together. A key part of the job is getting all the different parts to ‘talk to each other’ through seamless internal communication. Another aspect is monitoring progress in order to quickly intervene when its evident strategies aren’t effective, or teams go off-track.


What does a strategy manager earn?

A strategy manager’s average salary is R717 434 pa.


What personality traits do I need to be a strategy manager?

You need to be intensely curious. You need exceptional organisational and analytical skills, plus good grounding in financial knowledge. Logical thinkers will excel, and creativity is also a key capability. You need to be comfortable leading others and intervening when you can see execution is going off course.


Industries in need of strategy managers:

At the time of writing this, a LinkedIn search revealed over 800 results for the search term ‘strategy manager’, which branched across a vast spectrum of organisations and industries. Strategy managers can add value to most (if not all) businesses, but obviously, the strategy for a small-start-up will be very different to what’s needed by a larger, well-established corporate.


Bodies and associations for strategy managers:

If you’re interested in strategy you should consider joining:

The Strategy Institute:

A 30-year-old strategy, research, consultancy and teaching organisation in SA, that’s passionate about organisational performance.

Innovate South Africa:

Brings creative thinking people together to empower young people to solve the daily challenges they face, through entrepreneurship.

The SA Innovation Summit:

Not an organisation, but a good summit to attend if you want to listen to some of the brightest minds in the innovation space.

Knowledge Management South Africa:

A society for knowledge management professionals who want to invest in themselves whilst progressing their discipline in their organisations.


Trends in strategy, knowledge and innovation:

1. You can’t be shy of AI:

AI and automation are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. The World Economic Forum predicts robots will displace 75-million jobs by 2022 but create 133-million new ones. We’ve always experienced and adapted to change – it’s just the pace of it that’s new. While no one knows for certain what the world’s going to look like in the next ten years, or even the next five, we know we need to think ahead, learn to collaborate seamlessly with machines, and master our ‘human’ soft skills.

2. Digital immortality?

KMWorld Magazine published its top trends for 2019. One of the interviewed CEOs, Jans Aasman, suggests that public figures like scholars, scientists, etc. will be ‘immortalised’ in the form of AI personas, that have the person’s voice and link together every source published by or about that individual. This creates a cohesive knowledge system, allowing people to interact with the ‘digital version’ of a person, while they’re alive, and after they’re gone. Imagine what that means for organisations in terms of capturing knowledge and interacting first-hand with some of the greatest strategists and thinkers the world has ever known?

3. It’s all fun and games until someone gets unfollowed:

The Atlantic published a really alarming piece a little while ago, exploring whether social media has destroyed the mental wellbeing of an entire generation. Social media wellness is an ongoing trend strategists and innovators will need to be cognisant of in our digital age. In recent years especially, a number of celebrities like Selena Gomez have spoken about the challenges the platforms have presented to their mental health. This has led to Instagram bringing in measures like showing a user how many hours have been spent on the ‘Gram daily. Another big dilemma is the question of data. That’s something all innovators, strategists and knowledge custodians need to consider how to ethically harvest and guard, with people’s full knowledge and consent.


Typical jobs within a strategy manager’s team:

It very much depends what industry you’re in, but other strategy roles could include a digital strategist, content strategist and brand strategist.


On the knowledge management side, roles could include an intellectual capital manager, business analyst and new business developer.


With the rapid pace of change, having deep skills in strategy and innovation is one of the wisest career directions you can choose. It’s a skill that unfortunately was lacking in companies like Kodak, Xerox and Blockbuster. All of these failed to innovate with wide-reaching and dire consequences. From deciding how to pivot a company into the digital era, to nimbly morphing an organisation to take advantage of tech developments – strategy and innovation are skills every business needs now and into the future.


SGI Managing Knowledge and Innovation

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