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Does your group want a chief innovation officer?

7, 2020

6 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

It was refreshing to see a formal C-suite position, the Chief Innovation Officer (CINO), growing in popularity on executive teams over the past several years. A relatively new position, the title of Chief Innovation Officer, was first coined in 1998, but around 30 percent of Fortune 500 companies currently have a Chief Innovation Officer in some capacity.

As the role spreads, many leaders have questions about what that position entails and whether their organization needs it. To answer that question, here is an overview of the role, including a look at some of the benefits that CINOs offer and some key features that an effective CINO would bring to your leadership team.

Responsibilities of the CINOs

When defining the role of CINOs, it should be noted that the job description and responsibilities vary widely from organization to organization. This is partly because it is a new and evolving position, and partly because the role is often tailored to the individual needs of each organization and the specific skills of the individual in the role.

In contrast to many other management positions, CINOs often have different backgrounds. While product development and marketing are the most common backgrounds for innovation leaders, you'll find people with a background including former executives, academics, inventors, startups founders, and investment bankers.

However, there are some aspects of the role that remain consistent. At the simplest level, the innovation officer is responsible for helping to develop new ideas and new products while ensuring that everyone involved supports and understands new initiatives.

Related Topics: 9 Ways Your Business Can Promote Innovation

Author and innovation consultant Soren Kaplan was asked by some Fortune 500 companies to provide more clarity on this role and he responded with a job description. He explains his reasons for doing so as follows: “Instead of responding with a theoretical manifesto about the role's false perceptions and conflicting demands, I've decided to do something much more practical – I've created a job description template that you can customize and use in their real world Recruitment. "In this job description, Kaplan identified three main goals for a CINO:

Other innovation experts build on these general goals and at the same time point out that the CINO should not only focus on "groundbreaking innovation", but also on organizational leadership, internal and external networking, management of the development of ideas and creation of an innovation process.

Advantages of a CINO

A good CINO not only takes on the role of chief innovator, but also contributes to building a culture of innovation. This is a major advantage of the position, as well as an important distinction: A Chief Innovation Officer does not mean that all innovations are delegated to this person. Instead, this person is responsible for leading and driving innovation across the company.

Related topics: Why companies need to hire innovation officers today

CINOs not only help build this culture, but also ensure that companies have effective short and long-term innovation strategies in place and that these strategies are brought to market in a timely and scalable manner. Ultimately, and especially in the current highly competitive and fast-moving market, CINOs help companies to gain a competitive advantage and to lead their industry with new ideas, products and processes.

Features of effective CINOs

When considering whether to hire a CINO, it is important to consider the leadership traits that person will bring to your leadership team. Understanding the characteristics of a good CINO is not only important for the hiring process itself, but also important in determining whether or not that role is needed in your company. With that in mind, here are some features that effective CINOs share and bring to their leadership teams:

They are highly respected by everyone involved. Not only does this person need a track record but credibility that will allow them to bring everyone on board for changes and new ideas. After all, an essential part of this role is to align the leadership team behind new innovations. Hence, having someone who is highly regarded is a requirement.

They are strategic visionaries. People in this role need to be able to predict what's next and communicate it. This is a difficult skill to quantify objectively, but strong CINOs need the skills and confidence to anticipate what will happen to their industry and to convincingly share that information across the organization.

You are able to motivate and promote measures. A good CINO not only has unique innovation skills, but also strong traditional leadership skills. This includes the ability to inspire individuals and all to achieve their strategic vision.

They know how to deal with resistance. Individuals at all levels of organizations will question changes that disrupt the status quo. CINOs need to anticipate this reality and have the skills to hear, understand, address and manage this resistance.

Leaderless innovation is difficult to achieve

Some executives argue that a CINO is not required and generally support that feeling on the grounds that they do not want to delegate innovation, but that everyone in the organization should embrace innovation. While this may make sense for some companies, the current belief in the current marketplace is that a CINO is needed to build that culture of innovation, guide and develop the innovation process, and help companies stay competitive in a rapidly changing market .

Phil McKinney, innovation trainer, supports the role with a simple explanation: “Innovate or die. It's a common refrain, and more and more organizations are taking it to heart and proactively pursuing innovation programs rather than waiting for innovations to take place. "While every company is unique, in the current marketplace, it pays to take the time to study your company's innovation needs and the ways a chief innovation officer can meet those needs and add value to your business.

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