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Chief Innovation Officers – Half Truths and Reality

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

Innovation being one of the most prominent buzzwords of the time, seems to be riddled by loads of myths. While myths are just that – fictions of imagination and uninformed notions; the people who get misunderstood the most are the people who lead innovation efforts in any company, viz. the Chief Innovation Officers. Let us look at some partial truths and some missing information, when it comes to these creative men and women.


1. An Innovation Officer Facilitates a Culture of Curiosity.

They do encourage questions, because observing and questioning is a part of an innovator’s DNA. However, the truth is that they have no control over the culture of the organization. The culture of any organization is embedded in its people, practices, processes and philosophies. Not every company is innovation centric. Nor does every company want innovation to be a part of their culture. Most are happy with just a team that takes care of this bit of the business.


2. They Facilitate Combination of Inspiration and Insight.

Most innovators have T-shaped personalities. While they may have inspiration from diverse domains, their insights are highly domain specific. Hence, the scope of what they create through organized innovation efforts is limited.


3. They Facilitate Connections Between Pieces of Information.

While they can associate different forms of information meaningfully, they aren’t necessarily updated about behavioral dynamics of innovating companies. By the virtue of being innovators themselves, they do not necessarily facilitate the same for others, as well.

4. They are responsible for Creation of New Solutions.

Yes, but more often than not, most Innovation Heads are unable to convince the organizations about the problems they will solve. Innovation is about venturing into what has been uncharted territory thus far. On the other hand, organizations are often driven by data and hence it is difficult for Chief Innovation Officers to explain the quasi-fluid situation of underserved markets.

5. They Facilitate Collaboration Between Diverse Set of People.

At the same time, they are unable to resolve the conflicts between the old and the new. More often than not, innovation is seen as a part of the strategy and not the main strategy itself. This impacts how innovation efforts in organizations, specially larger companies are supported, or not. Similarly, in companies where the older generation is still at the helm, innovation people are often unable to drive the effort with full thrust.

6. They Enable Commercialization of Products Innovatively.

Most innovation officers are too excited by the ideas and the results that they imagine. As a result, the due diligence, the processes and the protocols required by a business plan, do not necessarily come to them naturally. The 'discovery' executives are more often than not 'delivery' executives and hence while they create commercially viable products, they are unable to sell their idea as a business plan.

7. They Enhance Communication with All Stakeholders.

The way innovation officers understand stakeholders, is a narrow worldview. As a result, they lose the actual innovation when trying to juggle between board members, shareholders, internal teams, larger marketplace, competitors and customers. So, between the privileges of the ‘chief’ and the expectations of an ‘officer’ the actual innovation is lost somewhere.


If you're reading this article, we'd love to hear your insights on innovation and your experiences with it at whatever level. We look forward to your comments.