Is The Role Of Chief Innovation Officer Outdated?

by Lisa Peacock-edwards

The business world is constantly changing and, as a result, we often see new roles added to the C-suite, such as the Chief Customer Officer and Chief Data Officer. Another recent addition is the Chief Innovation Officer (CINO), a role which is often derided as counter-productive.

Isn’t everyone in a company responsible for innovation? Why support a job creation scheme for executive searchers? But the critics are missing the point. The CINO does not single-handedly embody all the innovation in a company. Their remit is to identify pockets of innovation that contribute to a wider strategic vision and, vitally, to put processes in place that thread them together and turn them into reality.

Executive search firms take a broad view of talent management as it relates to their clients’ strategic goals. We appreciate the importance of innovation in today’s fast-paced commercial environment and have daily discussions with companies that are battling to stay ahead of existing competitors, new market entrants and evolving consumer trends. Therefore, we tend to support the CINO role as it enables ideas to come to fruition and acts as a catalyst to get them to market quicker and see a financial return.

In particular, the CINO binds together the disparate thoughts that emerge from marketing, digital, IT and R&D - siloed functions that do not always work in harmony - and transforms them into a deliverable innovation programme. In effect, the role serves as incubator, hatchery and nursery for the entire business, allowing ideas to grow strong and healthy before being unleashed.

The CINO position requires a rare breed of talent. It demands diplomacy, influencing skills, technical genius, marketing intuition, operational know-how and a heavy dose of practicality. An innate understanding of organizational design facilitates the right inter-departmental dialogue, eradicates duplication and integrates creativity. If the organizational construct does not support innovation, the CINO needs the gravitas to influence HR and bring about change.

Having a CINO on board does not mean that one person is in charge of innovation and the rest of the company is not.  Everyone is responsible for originating ideas, but the CINO is responsible for harnessing them, stepping back from short-term goals and galvanising innovation into a far-reaching action plan.