Mari Liavaag Holm
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A curious innovation manager
A curious innovation manager
Business, research, and education should work together to make the world a better place, according to Mari Liavaag Holm. And we must also dare to ask more questions.
Proffesion: Innovation manager, Campus Ålesund NTNU
- Bachelor: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, NTNU Ålesund
- Master: Change, organization and management, Molde University College
Innovation, is that important? When Mari Liavaag Holm finished her bachelor's degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management in 2009, she was often met with this attitude.
- It was not a skill many job advertisements asked for. At that time, both businesses and the public sector were more comfortable with the status quo. But now, everything has completely turned around. With digitalization and the green shift as a backdrop, change, innovation, and restructuring have become something that everyone must implement, says Liavaag Holm.
She now works as an innovation manager at NTNU Campus Ålesund, where innovation and entrepreneurial activities are a central part of everyday student life.
As one of NTNU's 14 innovation managers, her academic background should be highly relevant. Today, she is happy that she took such future-oriented studies.
- At the Ålesund campus, we have a long tradition of close contact with the industry sector. When I was studying, for example, we had mentors from local businesses, we created student businesses and took part in competitions. This meant that we were in close contact with the working sector.
- What were you like as a student?
- I was one of those who asked a lot of questions, maybe I was even a bit of a handful. I have always been fundamentally curious, says Liavaag Holm
She says that she learned a lot through teamwork with other students, and that the contact with the business world was so close. She gained a good understanding of what innovation and creativity really is all about.
She hopes that today's students also get to experience that, and her tip is to use the study time to make contacts and get an insight into working life. At the same time, it’s important not to forget to enjoy being a student.
A trademark for Ålesund campus
Liavaag Holm has worked on the campus in Ålesund since 2016. She is also working on a PhD, and in order to be able to concentrate 100 per cent on her job as an innovation manager she has taken a break from that now. She has extensive experience from voluntary work and has been deputy chair of the Norwegian Diabetes Association.
- The fact that we work so closely with business and companies is a kind of trademark for the campus that we want to promote, says Liavaag Holm.
Since Ålesund University College became part of NTNU in 2016, they have invested more in research; there are ten times as many PhD students at the Campus today than in 2016.
- The university has a role in contributing to change in society. We get to work at the intersection between NTNU, the actors around us and society at large, both through the commercialisation of ideas from research, as well as the spread of innovation expertise. The latter is central to being able to achieve change and development of both new and existing organisations.
Doesn’t like recipes for success
- What is the most important thing you have learned in your working life?
- There is a distinction between culture and structure in the development of organisations and companies. We can read many theories about change and what it takes to put a structure in place for it. But what is written on paper is useless if you do not take the organisation's culture seriously.
- In all workplaces, work must be done with culture to bring about innovation. It is both common and natural that there is a lot of resistance to change. Then it is important to be flexible, she adds.
Liavaag Holm is not fond of recipes for success. She describes herself as someone who would rather work behind the scenes than put herself in the spotlight.
- Sometimes it is important that someone dares to be unpopular, to ask the critical questions that contribute to reflection, not just smile, nod and be positive about everything that happens. Resistance is important for bringing about development and innovation. Being curious is also important, which goes hand in hand with asking questions.
Another thing she thinks is important is to start working from the ground up. Such experience is important particularly if you intend to become a leader yourself.
Working for society to adjust
- What do you like most about your job today?
- There are many pitfalls and obstacles, but the big goal is to contribute to change in society through education and knowledge.
When asked where she sees herself in a few years, she says that by then she hopes to have finished her PhD. She already has her dream job.
- I'm a bit tired of the word career, the idea that one should always move forward and up. Why should we actually do that? Many people think I'm so ambitious since I'm doing a PhD. But for me it is the knowledge that is important, not that it is a prestige project for myself. The important thing for me is to do a good job where I am here and now, says Liavaag Holm.
Text: Lisbet Jære