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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Pek

The Future Role of the Chief Innovation Officer

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Nowadays, companies cannot be too passive with innovation.

Nowadays, the biggest driver of business growth is innovation. Innovation allows your business to expand beyond the horizon and find opportunities to enter emerging markets. That is why it is significant to integrate innovation into an organization's culture.

A recent global survey from Mckinsey about innovation revealed that 84% of business executives believed that innovation is essential to growth. Furthermore, executives whom I have advised state that innovations that occurred in the last five years positively affected their company's bottom line. Innovation is at the core of entrepreneurship, and every business that wants to grow needs to embrace it.

My stock in trade has been the field of innovation and as such, I have guided numerous companies across various industries in their innovation journey and attained breakthrough success. That is why I know how crucial innovation is in maintaining your edge over the competition.

Who are chief innovation officers?

About 20 years ago, the title of chief innovation officer did not exist in the corporate world. Today, a chief innovation officer is vital to most businesses. If you look on LinkedIn, you will see more than 400,000 individuals bearing that title.

Most chief innovation officers used to be the company's chief information officers, who manage information, data and information technology-related systems. But the business landscape shifted its focus to innovation. As a result, companies need an executive who can help build a culture of innovation and create a competitive edge by developing new products or services through innovation.

Basically, a chief innovation officer bridges the gap between your innovation strategy and your business strategy. To become a genuinely innovative company, you need to synchronize your innovation strategy and your business strategy. However, the role of a chief innovation officer may vary from one company to another. Some chief innovation officers help drive innovation by helping the company conceive and deliver new — sometimes disruptive — products and services while others focus on transforming their companies into more creative and engaged workforces. Either way, the role of chief innovation officers and innovation is more important than ever to help companies grow and prosper.

The future of innovation

Whenever you talk about innovation, the topic is always accompanied by change. The business landscape is indeed ever-changing, but the pandemic further accelerated it. If you are not quick enough to adapt to the changes brought by the pandemic, you might be forced to shut down permanently.

One of the key ideas highlighted today is making your business resilient. As enterprises move forward in a post-pandemic period, organizational resiliency will be among the main goals, and innovation will be at the heart of becoming resilient. Chief innovation officers will help companies develop the ability to rapidly respond to unexpected events and the associated shift in customer needs. The key here is how to make your products and services flexible to cope with significant business disruptions.

Most people think that developing innovative ideas is solely the role of the chief innovation officer. But this is not true. Chief innovation officers do not have a monopoly of knowledge when it comes to new ideas. In most instances, the role of chief innovation officers is to cultivate a company culture that allows other people within the organization to develop new ideas. They do that by training people to become innovative and helping create a work environment that encourages individuals to contribute new ideas for the company's benefit. Chief innovation officers can further champion an idea raised by an employee.

Some key traits of a chief innovation officer

Nowadays, companies cannot be too passive with innovation. The business landscape is rapidly changing, and customer needs are also evolving at a quick pace; therefore, a chief innovation officer should always be vigilant in responding to these changes and be the beacon of new ideas and critical thinking.

A good candidate for the chief innovation officer role needs to possess a variety of integrated qualities to be effective in building a more innovative culture:

The first is curiosity. In the context of innovation, being more curious or in touch deeply with your customers will spark more insight and build more empathy. The more you apply curious thinking such as exploration, investigation and learning, the more likely you will generate innovative solutions that your customers want, need and can afford.

The second quality is championing divergent and convergent thinking simultaneously. Innovative ideas may come from all directions, and so it is important to cultivate diverse points of view to encourage novel thinking in parallel with critical thinking. Just because you have a big idea does not necessarily mean it will be a commercially successful idea. Chief innovation officers play a pivotal role in encouraging a balance between divergent and convergent thinking.

The third key trait is collaboration. Seldom do big ideas come from a lone genius. To ensure that good ideas become the next generation of new products and services, a chief innovation officer must collaborate with all levels of the organization.


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