The Kiss of Death: Hiring a Chief Innovation Officer (CIO)

The Kiss of Death: Hiring a Chief Innovation Officer (CIO)

Big Ideas

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November 2 2016
Big Ideas
Author: Michael McCaffrey

More and more, we are seeing companies hire CIOs, Innovation Leads, and innovation departments in their organizations. This speaks to how important innovation and how much meaningful uniqueness is valued today. Even the pentagon is creating a position for a CIO!

But before you go creating an innovation department and hiring a CIO… there are a few very serious risks to keep in mind.

Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation. You need to involve a diverse team from many different departments in your innovation process. This not only gives you diversity in the room for ideation, but you benefit from the unique perspectives, experiences, and knowledge of each participant. When you task one person or even a dedicated team with “doing innovation”, far too often, they take it upon themselves to come up with the ideas, develop those ideas, and test them.

A good innovator is someone who understands the process of innovation and can get a diverse team excited about a goal. An innovator isn’t someone who has good ideas.

Put your best “idea guy” up against a properly-led diverse team of 5-10 of your employees representing different departments and guess who will come out with the most meaningfully unique ideas? The diverse group will. Every single time.


Steve Jobs said it himself – “The process is the magic” (click to watch video).

An innovation department or CIO doesn’t have to be the kiss of death – they just have to understand that THEY don’t hold the answers. Rather, they are responsible for:

  • extracting the most valuable opportunities and business challenges from the leadership team
  • selecting a team representing diverse perspectives, experience and departments
  • leading the team through the process of ideation
  • conducting math modeling and research to determine whether the ideas have positive return and are on point with the strategy from the leadership team
  • identify death threats; create a minimum viable product and run market and feasibility tests to address the death threats
  • create a plan to execute

Innovation can’t fall squarely on the shoulders of a single person or even a dedicated team. The best results – the most meaningfully unique ideas – will undoubtedly come from the right process applied with the right group of people. 


Interested in learning more about Innovation? Ask questions here, connect with me on LinkedIn, or email me at to discuss how this can apply in your company.

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