The term 'middle-management' is used almost negatively now, a layer of the organisation that doesn't have the seniority of board-level executives or the enthusiasm and drive of their company's junior employees.
As their role is to ensure that the status-quo is maintained, many assume that their ideas won't be valuable to the innovation process.
Despite their bad reputation, middle managers have an essential role to play in the process. After all, they're the ones who have the responsibility of making sure that their teams are being as creative as possible.
This means that it's imperative that an organisation gets buy-in from its middle managers to guarantee that they're not solely motivated by current deliverables. The fact that middle managers are often judged by their capacity to lead teams that deliver on current objectives is one of the main reasons why they are often seen as a barrier standing in the way of innovation.
If senior management are insistent on prioritising current objectives then it's understandable why innovation would take a backseat for middle management. There's no use in setting down the foundations for a new approach when there's a chance that you'll be fired because your team's productivity has been lowered.
It's because of this that middle managers often understand that innovation is important, but often fail to recognise that it's their team's responsibility to think about it. In truth, this usaully isn't anything to do with their views on innovation, just the constraints that they're placed under by senior management.
When combined, this causes innovation to falter, something which can be the kiss of death for today's companies.
There are however things that can be done to help middle managers embrace innovation.
First and foremost, middle managers should never be criticised for attempting to do something innovative. Quite the contrary, they should be visibly recognised for their attempts as to actively encourage their counterparts to do the same.
Make it central to a middle manager's path to senior management and champion those who preside over the most innovative teams. More than anything, reward those who try and improve upon existing processes and remove any barriers that are stopping middle managers from being creative.
Middle managers shouldn't be cast aside as a group who can't innovate. Their presence is absolutely critical as it's often their teams which have the capacity to be most influential in the creative process. Praise and reward your middle managers and make them a central cog in your innovation process.