In the Moment

What is an Innovation Designer?

Mark Kuznicki

As we began growing our team at The Moment — a design-driven innovation consultancy based in Toronto — we started to wrestle with titles and roles that describe what we do and the multi-disciplinary way we do it. We landed on “Innovation Designer”.

All of our consultants — including the founders — use this title, while the roles we play in client projects are adaptable. They are able to shift and change based on the specific needs of the project and team using an agile sprint-based project approach.

An Innovation Designer is a practitioner with a diverse toolkit of capabilities that enables them to support teams and organizations through the transition from where they are now to where they need to be tomorrow.

The Innovation Designer’s skills and tools are drawn from diverse fields of practice: human-centred design, business strategy, research, organizational change and learning. Innovation Designers can apply their tools to many diverse challenges and contexts, and are skilled in sharing knowledge of their tools and methods with their project teams.

The Twelve Competencies of an Innovation Designer:

  1. Innovation Leadership (inspiring, selling, pitching, reframing)
  2. Strategic Foresight and Innovation Strategy Development
  3. Design Research (ethnography, user and market research)
  4. Service Design (customer experience and back-office business process design)
  5. Product Development (Lean product development methods, from value propositions to minimum viable product)
  6. Visual Design (graphic design, illustration, information graphics)
  7. Writing and Storytelling (written, spoken, audio-visual)
  8. Process Design and Facilitation (programs, projects, workshops and dialogue)
  9. Organizational and Culture Change (developmental evaluation, organizational design)
  10. Team Development & Coaching (formal and “just-in-time” learning)
  11. Business Design (business case development; viability and feasibility; analysis and design)
  12. Systemic Design (systems thinking, analysis, mapping/visualization and design of interventions)


I-shaped person vs. T-shaped person

The Innovation Designer is a T-shaped person, or a Generalizing Specialist. They will have depth of expertise in one or more of the above competencies (a “core competency”), with at least cross-functional awareness or a developing “edge competency” in others.

T-shaped people have the ability to think laterally, to connect and see patterns that deep specialization alone won’t reveal.

The Innovation Designer Capability Map

We developed this tool to help individuals assess their unique combination of capabilities and experiences in the above twelve core competencies of an Innovation Designer.

The spider diagram helps visualize the blend of competencies of an Innovation Designer

This spider diagram maps an individual’s unique multi-disciplinary capabilities. Given this understanding of the combination of skills of each individual, we then cast our multi-disciplinary project teams and recruit new team members in a way that will ensure we have the right mix of complementary capabilities every time and for every unique situation.

Download the tool on our Resources page.

Why does the world need Innovation Designers?

The work of advancing innovation inside established organizations requires a systematic approach to engaging different levels of the organizational system in order to anticipate the kinds of challenges, blindspots and barriers that inevitably surface through innovation projects.

As innovation practitioners have experienced these barriers in a wide variety of contexts, they realize the need for more of the competencies above at some point. No school teaches all of these in a single program, and for many experienced practitioners they are learned through a journey of trial-and-error experience and lifelong learning in collaboration with others.

The challenges faced by organizations and institutions are becoming increasingly complex, interconnected and systemic. Innovation Designers are lateral thinkers, able to navigate the complexity, inspire, reframe, embrace ambiguity and prototype solutions. We need more of these people to meet the needs of the future — helping to transform products, services, business models, organizations, institutions and systems.

Join the Team at The Moment

We are hiring! If you are interested in joining your particular blend of Innovation Design awesome-sauce with our own, please consider applying for our open position. We are looking for diverse T-people who are able to lead, teach and learn with us.

Along the way, you will learn more about how we invite the whole person into work, how we support self-management through our teal organizational and team practices, and how we prioritize learning in everything we do.

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