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Innovation Blog

New Corporate Function: CIO, Chief Innovation Officer – Is This a Useful Innovation?

By Shlomo Maital

  Writing in this week’s Bloomberg Business Week, consultant and author Mark Johnson * discusses the relatively new role of CIO – Chief Innovation Officer.

Today such leading companies as AMD (AMD), Citigroup (C), Coca Cola (KO), DuPont (DD), Humana (HUM), and Owens Corning (OC) each have one. Many others, including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), have senior leaders who are tasked with heading innovation in effect, if not in name.

Johnson says the CIO has three major functions (though these vary a lot, of course, across different organizations):   “….there are three critical areas of innovation for which all top innovation executives should take responsibility: language, learning, and long-term structure.

    Language:  Develop a true language of innovation.  “Whatever language is used, it should distinguish between innovation in the core business and innovation that creates platforms for new-business creation. That distinction is critically important because the chief innovation officer’s raison d’etre is to lead new-business innovation that will ensure the company’s continued survival and growth.”

   Learning:  Make sure the innovation process includes powerful systematic learning. “New-business innovation proceeds in small-scale, controlled experiments conducted in a foothold market—a small geographic region or customer group that will serve as a low-cost laboratory. Top innovation officers need to keep such incubation efforts free of interference from the core business and allow the innovation team the autonomy to determine quickly if the idea is viable, needs to be modified, or should be abandoned.”

     Long-term Structure:  “This critical area… translates the language of innovation and its focus on learning into a repeatable process, using structure to unlock creativity. With a budget, a clear charter, and distinct governance measures and milestones, new-business innovation moves from the ad hoc to the institutional.”

    Does your organization have a CIO?   Would you like to become one?  What qualities and skills will it take?  How will you acquire them? 

* See:   Seizing the White Space: Business Model Innovation for Transformative Growth and Renewal, Harvard Business Press, February 2010.  


Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
November 2010
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