Is the Chief Innovation Officer on borrowed time?

Who are they, what do they do, and are they really needed in the C-suite? We contemplate the role of the Chief Innovation Officer and the important part they play in turning good ideas into tangible results. 

Despite being a relatively new acronym to the C-suite, some think that the CINO might just go the way of the dodo and in double quick time if companies continue to think of innovation as something that happens throughout the organization, rather than just a handful of departments. Take the likes of Google, who from their very earliest days have created a structure within which innovation is obligatory, not optional. There, everyone is responsible for innovation.

That said, the CINO’s role isn’t to promote company-wide innovation. Yes, they may play a role in developing a cultural change within an organisation that isn’t already innovation-led, but really the CINOs’ remit is to identify and develop areas of their businesses where focused innovation can contribute to the companies’ over-arching strategy and growth model. Great ideas still need someone guiding them into position. This is where the CINO is worth his or her weight in gold.

They are, or at least should be, the grist to the innovation mill, the people who can put processes in place to turn great ideas into value-driving results. One of the CINO’s most underplayed roles is that of bringing together often silo’d parts of the business. Very often, it’s the CINO who gets marketing, PR, finance, product development, etc. to sit at the same table at the same time. Without them, these silos can go about their work to different speeds and with different goals through lack of communication.

What makes a good CINO

Who is the CINO and, if you’re in the market for one, what traits should they possess? Ideally, a good CINO requires diplomacy in spades, positive influencing skills and a galvanising personality, matched with plenty of pragmatism. They also need the confidence and authority to be able to go and demand the necessary changes in organisational structure so that every department is playing to the same tune.

It’s true then that everyone should be responsible for generating innovation. The CINO, however, is integral to turning those ideas into reality.

If you’re looking to hire a CINO or another member of the c-suite team, we can help with your executive search.


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