Innovation is crucial. Companies have to embrace change to survive the future. But this is easier said than done. How can you be more innovative?

People through 50 years of Innovation Management

We base ourselves on a study done by innovation accelerator creax in January 2020. Creax took 15.789 academic papers and studies on innovation management (spanning more than 50 years of research) and fed this information into CRAiN, their big data text mining platform. The goal? To see how innovation management grew and changed over the years. To get an unbiased overview of what is turning heads now and what is old news. The results are very interesting and confirm the central role of people in innovation.

People at the center

As we would expect, over the years a lot of research went into technological innovation, new product development, service optimization and open innovation. What does strike us though, is that we see a lot of people-related studies claiming their spot in the center of the graph.

This means that the role of teams, organizations, workplaces and employees are being hotly discussed in research institutions, together with social innovation and business models. But why did it take so long to give people a central role?

Operational excellence versus innovation

The focus of businesses has long been on the operational approach. If the framework was right, the rest would follow during the integration. Also, the competitive landscape was completely different. Businesses had a more regional target market. They produced locally and sold locally.

Innovate or die

But when worldwide competitors take over your market and you have to compete globally, the credo quickly becomes “innovate or die”. Operational excellence alone will not save you anymore. You have to come up with really innovative products and services.

People vs AI

That’s where people take the center stage again. As of today, artificial intelligence can and does support innovation, but it cannot yet generate radical new concepts. Real innovation comes from people, and most notably from teams. Well-balanced innovation teams are where the sparks start to crackle.

Real innovation starts with people

But teams are not so easy to optimize as a production process. They have their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. You have to find people with the right competencies, attitude and behavior, within your company or externally. You need ideators, champions, and implementers to build dedicated or ad-hoc innovation dream teams that bring creative ideas to the market faster and more efficiently.

Innovation is about value creation and this is where the difference can be made. We expect a lot more research to go into the currently underappreciated role of people in innovation.

A useful innovation assessment

At, we already conducted research into this central role of people and teams in innovation. Working together with prof. dr. Frederik Anseel and his team at the Ghent University, we developed an objective and scientifically based online assessment for innovation potential.

With the insights from this test, you can start building top-performing innovation dream teams and accelerate the transformation of creative ideas into innovation that brings value to your organization.

With the right people in balanced innovation teams, you are armed to differentiate yourself and become the leader of your market with new products, services, processes, and business models.


Interested to learn how you can quickly measure the innovation skills of professionals to build or recruit your own innovation top team? Try the free demo to see how it works!

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