What is the difference between a human and any other creature? This is an opportunity and a desire to always move forward. That is why you are now reading this article from the screen of your gadget, and not from a cave painting somewhere in the Cro-Magnon.
What distinguishes a truly successful company from any ordinary one? This is a constant search for innovative solutions that can give real benefits to both the company and its customers. Of course, the entire team is largely responsible for the effectiveness of the innovation process, but today we’ll talk about the Chief Innovation Officer. What depends on him and what is important to know to succeed in this position? Read further about this.
Competition in the business world is growing with the speed of Hyperloop (how could we not mention it in an article about innovations?). That is why the well-known catchphrase - innovate or die - becomes more and more relevant.
You know, that it’s not so easy to come up with an innovative idea. Not to get stuck at the idea development stage and move on to specific actions - it’s another one challenge. That is why it becomes very popular among companies to attract the Chief Innovation Officer to the management process. In general, Chief Innovation Officer- is the person responsible for the development and implementation of innovations in a company from A to Z.
According to McKinsey research, 84% of executive directors claim that they need innovation to ensure their business grows, and according to Accenture, 63% of companies have already implemented the position of Chief Innovation Officer (and this is only in the USA). The role of CINO can be generally explained through the following functions:
- Support of the best practices
Perhaps, the Chief Innovation Officer is that key intermediary between the company and all the most advanced practices that can positively affect a company’s development. Standardization of market research and searching for new progressive methods; development of strategic innovations; the introduction of the best tools for corporate management and the generation of new ideas - that is only a small part of those innovative areas for which the Chief Innovation Officer is responsible.
How to succeed here?
Rule #1 - always keep abreast of new products, improvements, and trends. For example, you can take advantage of the fairly common practice of top companies in recent years - quantum innovation. Such innovations are characterized by bold, even radical, creative thinking, designed to bring the company to a new profitable paradigm, even if it means going beyond the existing business model.
To better understand what we’re talking about, let’s provide some examples:
- Wikipedia’s plan to create a collection of all world knowledge;
- Space X, aiming at the colonization of Mars;
- Philip Morris International, which has announced the idea of “self-destruction” to create a smoke-free future.
Rule #2 - don’t be afraid to look for the best solutions outside your company. The open innovations have remained at the peak of popularity for the last several years. According to this approach, the company relies not only on its own knowledge, resources and developments, but also actively attracts many external sources (such as customer reviews, published patents, competitors, external agencies, the public opinion, etc.) to stimulate innovation.
For example, Starbucks, feeling the need for innovative solutions, created a special platform - “My Starbucks Idea” - where customers and fans could share their ideas and suggestions on how to make their favorite products even better. Result:
- more than 150,000 ideas proposed;
- a strong customer base for further target market research;
- and of course, the super delicious and best-selling Hazelnut Macchiato. We just leave it here :)
Rule #3 - technology is the best friend of every successful Chief Innovation Officer. Without progressive, original technological solutions, all your innovative aspirations cost zero. You have to find a reliable technology partner who can not only develop custom software but also provide consulting and support at all stages of software development for your innovative solution. Read more about this in our article Tech innovations: why custom software is a must.
- Development of the necessary innovative skills of the team members
It is crucial for Chief Innovation Officer to understand: to create a truly innovative corporate culture, it is necessary to give employees a space for self-expression, freedom for putting forward ideas, recommendations, and criticism.
It is also important to work on the “openness” of staff to innovation. Who better than the Chief Innovation Officer knows how sometimes difficult it is for a team to perceive and implement something new?
To create a favorable environment for the growth of innovation, prepare the so-called “ground”. Create a portrait of your typical employee (to better understand his motives, fears and preferences, readiness for a radically new course) and ideal (to clearly understand what qualities of employees are needed specifically for your company to successfully innovate). Be sure: it’s worth to spend some time and efforts on this task.
- Identification of new markets for innovative products
Entering new markets, gaining new customers and even greater profits - this is the core motive that drives the entire innovation process, isn’t it? The proper definition and analysis of the target market for a new product is perhaps the most difficult and responsible task for Chief Innovation Officer. The price of error here is too high: no matter how breakthrough your innovative product/service is, if it does not cover the actual pains of consumers, it will not be needed in the market.
To better explore the market, use different approaches and tools, for example:
- Proof of a Concept (PoC),
- Peter Thompson Canvas
- SWOT analysis, etc.
Also, when choosing a market for an innovative product, we recommend you to pay attention to the related platforms and markets, that are especially popular nowadays.
Adjacencies are new platforms or markets that are closely related to the work that the company is currently engaged in but differ sufficiently to represent new value to the company.
For example, Disney found such a new value for their company by launching a platform for streaming video content.
- Fostering idea generation among employees
As old as time but 100% effective tip: if you want your employees to do something, create all the favorable conditions for this. The same principle can be applied for the idea generation process.
Let’s be frank: what are the chances, that your “Hey, John, let me know when you come up with something interesting” said at the lunch time with your colleagues, will work? Well, approximately 1 to 10.
The good news is that the chances of getting a worthwhile idea from your employees increase at times when using the following idea generation formats (read more on the Hubspot):
- use fail-safe ideas box;
- creating of mood board;
- organization and visiting of hackathons;
- corporate or external crowdsourcing.
Also, get the team involved in various innovative hubs.
Ideas are like germs. The closer we are to each other, the greater is the likelihood of transmitting them. — Patrick Hussey, Head of communications at Makerversity (a technology hub in London).
Here are the best innovative hubs in the world to help you “infect” your team:
- Taking care of promising projects
Moving potentially explosive innovations from the initial stage to the market, protection from the prejudice of managers who invest in the status quo - sounds more like a noble mission than just as the ordinary responsibility of the Chief Innovation Officer, yeah? The thing is, that many company managers because of their conservatism/ fear/ misunderstanding of the essence of the project/ lack of information and other reasons obstruct the implementation of explosive innovations.
Therefore, it is very important to work with all decision-makers in your company to maximize their incentive to implement promising projects.
To get the necessary loyalty to the project, it is not enough just to tell how good this project is and what fabulous results it will bring.
Use SWOT analysis to give a reasonable report on the feasibility, prospects, and risks of implementing an innovative project.
Important: Always be honest about risks without sugaring up the situation.
Provide the prototype of your innovative product to the management team - it will be definitely more applicable than words and help managers better assess all the benefits. You can read more about its development here.
Remember: the core mission of Chief Innovation Officer - is to bring competitive advantage to the company. Keep in mind this overarching goal, never stop searching for progressive solutions and may the power of Elon Musk be with you :)