16 Innovation Experts to Follow in 2020

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Great business ideas are usually a mix of inspiration, determination, and intelligence. To succeed, you need good ideas, smart processes, and a strong will. 

The same goes for innovation management. Ideally, you’ll have lots of good ideas, with the right strategy and a refined process to execute them time and time again. 

But you can’t always have the best ideas yourself, and you won’t always know how to execute if you do. That’s why it’s essential to listen closely to the experts and learn from their experience

Read-on to see our top innovation experts. We’ve split them across a few different categories, to reflect the different challenges facing innovation managers.

Let’s begin at the top.

Innovation strategists

To be a good innovation manager, you should be deep in the weeds with innovation theory and best practices. New ideas emerge constantly, and the way we create impactful products and processes is constantly being updated. 

To keep on top of these trends – plus build the most solid foundation possible – here are the names to know.

Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen

Clayton M. Christensen is usually one of the first names in any list of innovation experts. He invented the (often misunderstood) term “disruptive innovation” in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma, and is a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review. 

Unlike many of the other names on this list, Christensen doesn’t maintain a blog. So “following” his work isn’t a matter of subscribing or checking in from time to time. 

But he does share articles (both his own and others’) on social media, so it’s still easy to keep up with what interests him. And of course, there are literally decades of articles and books to go back through, with some of the most important ideas in the field. 

Follow him for

  • Authoritative insights into innovation management
  • Academic reasoning and theories
  • Everything there is to know about disruptive innovation

Must-reads

Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Rita McGrath

Rita Mcgrath

Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath is best known for her research and writing on the subject of innovation and change during uncertain times. Aside from teaching, she offers delivers public speeches, offers workshops, and created the ImpactDDG program as an innovation tool for businesses.

Her blog is full of fascinating stories about innovation in industries like food, banking, and healthcare. It also features interesting structural guides on how to lead your company through change – something that most innovation managers have to deal with constantly. 

She also contributes regularly to Inc.com and HBR.

Follow her for

  • Hands-on advice on change management
  • Bigger-picture ideas about what makes change so difficult to deal with
  • A detailed and consistently insightful email newsletter

Must-reads

Subscribe to Rita McGrath’s free newsletter, and follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Henry Chesbrough

Henry Chesbrough

Henry Chesbrough literally invented the term “open innovation” (and created the theory behind it, more importantly). He’s also a Professor at UC Berkeley, and Executive Director of the Center for Open Innovation, which conducts research and publishes articles on this hugely popular subject. 

So for business leaders who care about (or are simply interested in) open innovation, Henry Chesbrough is the name to know. He has written five books on the subject, and continues to be the person leading publications call when they need comments and advice.

Follow him for

  • Basically everything open innovation
  • Updates from innovation programs at leading universities

Must-reads

Follow him on LinkedIn and read the Center for Open Innovation blog.

Renée Mauborne

Renee Mauborgne

Mauborne is best known as one of the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, the world-famous innovation management strategy. She’s also a Professor of Strategy at INSEAD, and served on President Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

New followers should absolutely start with her two books, Blue Ocean Strategy and Blue Ocean Shift. These give businesses a framework to find new markets and grow. Blue and red oceans have become a paradigm for innovative thought – you’ll find these ideas all over business strategy.

Follow her for

  • Everything there is to know about Blue Ocean Strategy
  • Modern business strategy
  • New ways to look at your company’s market and identify opportunities

Must-reads

Follow Blue Ocean Strategy on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner

Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner

Jeffrey P. Baumgartner is instantly recognizable for his multifaceted management style and unconventional personal presentation. In short, he’s eclectic (and proud of it). 

His biggest area of expertise is applied creativity – the ability to consistently encourage creative work from business teams. Among plenty of other achievements, he created an alternative approach to brainstorming called anticonventional thinking (ACT).

More than anything else, he delivers ideas in a way that’s fun and different from traditional business writing. If you’re sick of the average Entrepreneur article and want to look at innovation differently, here’s your man. 

Follow him for

  • Alternative viewpoints on questioning, criticism, and creativity
  • Energy and inspiration to get your business innovating
  • New ways to look at old disciplines like marketing and management

Must-reads

Browse through hundreds of articles, enjoy his cartoons, or follow him on Twitter

Tim Brown

Tim Brown

Tim Brown is CEO of IDEO, a design outfit famous for helping companies innovate thanks to its particular approach to problem solving. Brown is one of the leading design thinkers, with a track record of helping other businesses adopt this innovative thought process. 

One of Brown’s core principles is the design-driven organization, in which founders and executive leaders should be encouraged to think like designers (if they’re not designers themselves). He gives endless encouragement and countless strategies to help them do exactly that. 

Follow him for

  • Insights into what makes designers good at what they do (and how to use this in your own work)
  • Comprehensive knowledge of the field of design thinking
  • Practical advice from the firm’s consulting work.

Must-reads

If you’re ready to dive into the Tim Brown archives, visit his IDEO blog (2008-2018). 

To see what Tim cares about today, follow him on LinkedIn.

Tim Ogilvie

Tim Ogilvie

Tim Ogilvie is the founder of Peer Insight, a “strategic service innovation firm” which helps business innovate using design thinking and experimentation. He’s credited as one of the early pioneers in design thinking, and has led projects for Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble, and AARP. 

Ogilvie is the author of two important books: Designing for Growth and The Designing for Growth Field Book. He’s also a frequent contributor to the Peer Insight blog – an excellent place to find strategic guides for specific business challenges

Similar to Tim Brown (above), Tim Ogilvie’s work is to get companies working more like design agencies. But the Peer Insight blog covers a wider range of ideas and thought patterns than Brown’s blog for IDEO. Ogilvie’s articles cover a wide range of tactics for business leaders, including innovation strategy but also pricing, business structure, and plenty more. 

He’s a great person to follow if you want broader business strategy from someone with a design mind.

Follow him for

  • Smart and witty articles on design thinking strategy
  • Real examples from the firm’s work with clients
  • Hands-on innovation guides, especially for sprints and shorter projects

Must-reads

Follow Tim Ogilvie on LinkedIn.

Management experts

Innovation managers need to be strong leaders. The ability to manage tasks, projects, and people is essential.

That’s why it makes sense to keep an eye on the new ideas and thought leaders in management as well as product development. Here are some of the ones to follow. 

Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman

Rothman is described as the “Pragmatic Manager.” She is a management consultant, providing advice, workshops, and assessments for businesses who need help. She also has a lot to say on agile strategies, based on a wealth of experience. 

Rothman has two blogs that will be of interest to innovation managers. One covers product management, while the other is about hiring technical people. The latter hasn’t been updated for a few years, but there’s a trove of information on what can be a particularly tricky issue for most innovation managers

Her work is particularly tech-focused. And while a lot of innovation authors deal with tech, many of her articles go into more detail than the average.

Follow her for

  • Detailed product and project management strategies
  • Specific advice for managers of software teams

Must-reads

You can subscribe to Rothman’s “close-to-monthly” Pragmatic Manager newsletter, or follow her on LinkedIn.

Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra is the Charles Handy Professor of Organizational Behavior at the London Business School, having previously been on the faculties at INSEAD and Harvard. She’s known for her ideas on leadership and career progression. 

Much of her work deals with networking and careers. While this will naturally be interesting, it isn’t exactly innovation management.

But she also writes and talks about issues such as women in management, how leaders should lead, and how to build stronger teams as a result of both.

Follow her for

  • Excellent analysis and advice around company gender policy
  • Smart insights into leadership in modern businesses
  • Collaboration and networking both for individuals and teams

Must-reads

Ibarra is an active social media user. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

John Kotter

John Kotter

Dr. John Kotter is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School, and one of the leading experts in change management worldwide. 

Most notably, he created the 8-Step Process for Leading Change. In a 1995 article, he pointed out eight key mistakes that most businesses make, and then eight steps for correcting these. This became a book and a popular framework used by companies worldwide. 

Today, the best way to follow him is to keep up with Kotter Inc, his firm that consults for businesses and governments to help them reinvent themselves and manage the change that comes as part of this. Kotter Inc published research and analysis that all serious business leaders should pay attention to

Follow him for

  • Groundbreaking theories on corporate change management
  • Very good YouTube explanations of important management topics
  • Interesting articles (by himself and others) shared on social media

Must-reads

Follow John Kotter on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Teresa Amabile

Teresa Amabile

A Director of Research at Harvard, Teresa Amabile is well-known for her work on understanding creativity. She’s particularly interested in the effects of everyday work life on productivity and performance. 

You won’t be getting daily social media updates. Instead, it’s best to dive into her books like The Progress Principle which explore creativity in the workplace and detail how to get more of it from your teams. 

Follow her for

  • Deep insights into the human dynamics in office spaces 
  • Serious academic research and breakthroughs

Must-reads

You can follow Teresa Amabile on Twitter and LinkedIn

Lolly Daskal

Lolly Daskal

For leadership strategy, Lolly Daskal is a powerful voice and a great follow. She has coached executives in 14 countries and six languages, and developed the program Lead From Within.

Her blog is full of first-hand advice from her work with management figures in some of the best-known companies around the world. Topics include everything from “how to ask for help” to “what happens when your team turns on you.” 

While she doesn’t typically talk about classic innovation management ideas, she’s a great resource for anyone in a leadership role. And unlike some of our previous experts, Lolly Daskal is a highly active social media poster, so there’s plenty of content to enjoy. 

Follow her for

  • Qualities and characteristics of good leaders (and bad)
  • Step-by-step guides to respond to specific leadership challenges

Must-reads

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest for endless management ideas. 

Entrepreneurship

Innovation managers tend also to be passionate about entrepreneurship. The reason is obvious: every new product needs to launch and grow just like a startup. And the best innovation managers need to think like startup CEOs

To that end, here are a few interesting voices to pay attention to in the wider world of entrepreneurship. 

Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

Kawasaki has spent large portions of his professional life as “Chief Evangelist” for well-known companies like Apple, Mercedes Benz, and Canva. He’s part marketer, part management expert, and he knows how to present companies in new and innovative ways. 

Kawasaki is basically a celebrity these days, similar to Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk. So if you want precise, hands-on innovation advice this is not the place to come. But for inspiration, energy, and interesting ideas, he’s a useful person to keep an eye on. 

Follow him for

  • Advice on nearly everything, from pitching and ideation, to sleep and “cool stuff
  • Inspirational stories and a positive attitude
  • Tales from Silicon Valley

Must-reads

Guy Kawasaki is very active on social media. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook

Dr. Jeff Cornwall

Jeff Cornwall

Dr. Jeff is the Jack C. Massey Chair of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University and co-founder of The Entrepreneurial Mind, an online community for business owners. It’s a good place to visit if you need help with the day-to-day aspects of entrepreneurship.

His personal blog is great for entrepreneurs. He covers everything from pitch strategy to encouraging growth, and always offers real-life examples that make concepts simple to grasp. 

Follow him for

  • An academic perspective on entrepreneurship
  • Thought leadership and the bigger picture on business
  • Good, short video interviews with interesting entrepreneurs

Must-reads

Watch all of Jeff Cornwall’s short videos on Facebook.

Julian Birkinshaw

Julian Birkinshaw is Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Deputy Dean at the London Business School. He’s a renowned expert on entrepreneurship and business renewal

Birkinshaw has also written fourteen books, including Fast/Forward and Reinventing Management, and is a co-founder of the Management Innovation Lab.

Follow him for

  • Talks on business issues including artificial intelligence and company culture.
  • Latest developments from London Business School and other institutions

Must-reads

Follow Julian Birkinshaw on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Steve Blank

Steve Blank

Steve Blank is a now-retired entrepreneur, having spent 21 years in eight tech companies (many of which he founded). He is now on the faculty at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and Columbia University, teaching his own courses on entrepreneurship. 

Blank created the Customer Development method in the 1990s. This is credited as the forefather of Lean Startup, about which Blank is also a prominent voice. 

The best place to start is the blog at steveblank.com. Blank posts regularly, with each article full of resources, videos, and slideshows for readers to dive deeper

Follow him for

  • Recent developments out of Stanford and other institutions
  • Detailed knowledge and insight into Lean Startup and other methodologies
  • A huge collection of articles and presentations on all things entrepreneurship

Must-reads

Follow Steve Blank on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Who did we miss? 

Those are 16 excellent names to monitor in the world of innovation, management, and entrepreneurship. Of course, there are countless more we could have added. 

So who would you include? Who’s the one business and innovation thought leader that has you hooked? 

Let us know.