A couple of years ago the Chief Innovation Officer was just one in a long list of senseless job titles specifically designed to dress up traditional roles. We saw lifeguards become 'wet leisure assistants' and binmen turn into 'waste management and disposal technicians'. While most are easy to see through, the CINO has become a bonafide job title, and a position many leading companies have adopted.
The CINO is now an established C-suite position as company's look to make innovation an organizational priority. There are, however, a number of challenges for them to overcome. Let's take a look at three of them.
Stripped down, innovation falls into two categories: incremental and breakthrough. There is little crossover between the two, with both requiring different methodologies. In an ideal world organizations would structure innovation on a project-by-project basis, but commonly companies tend to lean one way or another.
There are also other things to think about. How much power should the CINO give its less-powerful employees? Initiatives like Adobe's 'Kickbox' have shown that rank isn't necessarily a reflection of someone's ability to innovate, and that CINOs should look outside of the senior management team for ideas.
There is so much scope for structuring innovation, and it's up to the CINO to design a plan which fits the company they are working for.
Creating an innovation culture
A true innovation culture is about autonomy, quick decision-making, focused leadership and most importantly, constant evaluation. There shouldn't be an innovation team, but an understanding that each employee should always be trying to find ways to make their job more effective.
This is in stark contrast to what we see in many of today's most influential companies. Even if an innovation department exists, there are bureaucratic processes around it which stop new ideas from being explored.
In the words of Peter Drucker: 'Culture eats strategy for breakfast.' And developing an innovation culture remains one of the CINO's main challenges.
Deciding whether external collaboration is worthwhile
Open Innovation is being used by NASA, GE and Samsung, as they look to take advantage of the startup community's technological expertise.
It is still a contentious issue for CINOs. They risk losing intellectual property and potential competitive advantages, but stand to gain from better research, superior product development and cheaper R&D costs.
With budgeting - especially in the public sector - often limited, Open Innovation can be a way of keeping costs down, and driving initiatives, which, if kept internal, would be unable to move forward. Open Innovation isn't for everyone, and choosing to go down its path is a major challenge for the CINO.