Every now and then, new job titles crop up that spark questions over what the job responsibilities are supposed to be. “Marketing ninja” and “sales Sherpa” are self-explanatory. Others, like chief innovation officers (CINOs), are vague enough to trigger a round of confused looks. The specific roles of CINOs vary from company to company, but they all have a common aim: To shake up the C-suite by questioning conventions and embracing change.
The Importance of Organizational Change
The idea of embracing organizational change is nothing new. In Spencer Johnson’s charmingly named book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” he explores how adapting to change moves employees and companies forward.
Borrowing from that classic business allegory, one might say that a chief innovation officer’s job is not to go looking for the relocated cheese, but to anticipate that the cheese will move and where it will move. True organizational change is not necessarily the adaptation to a change that has already occurred. Rather, a company benefits from change by being the force that drives it.
The CINO’s Job Description
If you ask a handful of different chief innovation officers what their actual job description is, you will probably get a handful of diverse answers. Industry differences abound, but there are some common patterns. At its heart, the job of the CINO is to design company structures and environments that are friendly to new ideas that buck the trend.
CINOs tend to focus on a company’s human capital. They recognize that from the front desk up to the top floor, every employee has the potential to have great ideas that can transform some aspect of the business. Essentially, it is the CINO’s job to foster the collaborative creativity of the company’s human capital.
The Roles and Responsibilities of CINOs
In order to drive organizational change, CINOs can work in a number of areas, including the following:
- Skill development: CINOs develop training opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of employees, and to encourage intrapreneurship.
- Management training: CINOs create a culture that thrives on change by training managers across departments. CINOs teach managers to recognize innovation and foster its implementation.
- Failure mindset: CINOs can create a culture in which it’s safe and acceptable to fail. When failure isn’t a firing offense, employees and managers are less hesitant to give voice to their innovative ideas. A corporate culture that drives change must be willing to embrace failures as milestones toward success, rather than setbacks.
- Market analysis: CINOs know how to analyze trends and disruptions in order to identify opportunities. Some of these opportunities may require the expansion of the current boundaries of the business.
- Fostering orphan ideas: CINOs often take “orphan” ideas under their wing. These orphan ideas don’t fit neatly into any other business unit, or they’re too risky for the pre-defined business units. The CINO’s office is essentially a foster home for ideas that have nowhere else to go, but that have the potential to drive remarkable growth.
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