Replace your Chief Innovation Officers with Chief Innovation Management Officers

The title should reflect the responsibility

For quite some time there has been an establishment of a new CxO role in the corporate community. Innovation has become such an important macroeconomic trend that firms have started to see the value of have a senior manager responsible for innovation in the top management team. Thus there is now a Chief Innovation Officer at many firms, which is a rather exemplary and proactive decision as it helps to build top management support for perilous innovation activities.

Why a Chief Innovation Officer?

The Chief Innovation Officer paves the way for establishing innovation funds and for instituting an innovation process at the firm. The role of the Chief Innovation Officer is crucial in larger firms and helps to coordinate and orchestrate innovation efforts typically initiated by the CMO and the CIO. The corporation can be given a common language and a set of well established methods for generating new ideas and evaluating innovation projects. Having a Chief Innovation Officer is highly important, and by coordinating all the other innovation managers at the firm s/he should be the node for all decision-making for innovation throughout the firm.

It isn’t having a Chief Innovation Officer role I am concerned with, it is the misconception of the title and the appurtenant consequences that may come with it that I am reacting to.

Mistaking “innovation” for “innovation management”

The abbreviation CINO has been around for over two decades and is used as a compromise to avoid confusion with the Chief Information Officer – the original CIO. No issues so far… But what the CINO title stipulates is that the CINO is overall responsible for “innovation” – usually referring to innovation outputs and results. In my opinion this Indicates a misunderstanding of the actual responsibility of the Chief Innovation Officer. What the CINO abbreviation implies is that the Chief Innovation Officer is in charge of producing all the output, which makes him/her more result oriented than process oriented. This is why only 6% of senior executives are satisfied with the outcome of their innovation performance. Because this is important: “innovation” is the outcome of structured “innovation management” efforts. So focusing only on the results leads to unstructured and arbitrary innovation efforts. What is important for successful innovation is systematic innovation management. Because if you are randomly running for the hills you are leaving it all to luck, and this should not be the case in corporate business. That is why I am proposing the increased used of the function and title of the Chief Innovation Management Officer instead – the CIMO.

Luck is for the unprepared. The CIMO should be the one to ensure that preparation meets opportunity

In the same spirit it is often hard for people to explain the difference between an innovator and an innovation manager. Here’s a simple explanation:

  • An innovator is a person coming up with good ideas.
  • An innovation manager is a person responsible for the preconditions for those coming up with the good ideas.

See the difference? I was once asked at a large CEO conference after a speech I held on innovation management “whether I – as an innovation manager – would consider myself primarily a creator or a bureaucrat”. I smiled at the question and truthfully replied that “I am a bureaucrat, creating the foundation for the creators”. And the same would be the CIMO’s role.

Let the CIMO focus on the system and the results will come

The same concept goes for the Chief Innovation Officer and the Chief Innovation Management Officer. If you stick with likely remain with the 94% not satisfied with their innovation investments, but establish a CIMO and you may transfer a CINO only focusing on spontaneous creative activities you will most to the group of the 6% who are satisfied and profitable. It would be like telling all the football players in a team to individually do their best, without coordinating the team effort. As in any management area, great outcome comes from a professional approach, not from random initiatives. It should be the CIMO’s responsibility to ensure a well-drafted, comprehensive, ISO-aligned, adaptive, fully-fledged innovation management system. Not just running occasional workshops or putting a so called “innovation team” in the outskirts to come up with random new stuff. Those efforts will be expensive and inefficient. Innovation needs to be structured, systematic, integrated and well planned to ensure success. With a good CIMO in place this is fully plausible.

And mind that the same principle goes for other similar job roles and titles, such that a Head of Innovation should preferably be replaced with a Head of Innovation Management, etc.

Note: if you are a CINO who is actually proficient at innovation management you should simply just have your title adjusted to CIMO to reflect the reality of your endeavors. 👍🏼