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What makes a good chief innovation officer?

The role of Chief Innovation Officer, or Head of Innovation, is fast gaining traction and attention within various organisations and industries, but why is this happening now, what does it entail and who is best suited to fulfill the role? These were some of the questions I had in mind when I got an opportunity to spend the afternoon at a recent Chief Innovation Office Summit in London, UK.

CINOEU

The 2 day summit featured a host of speakers and topics related to innovation, including networking and hands-on workshops – because, after-all innovation is about deeds, not just words and ideas. The attendees list read like a who is who of Innovation leadership from new and established organisations. Some key takeaways include:

  1. The right Culture for Innovation – many more companies and individuals have recognised and are making tangible efforts to identify and address the need for innovation leadership in their industry. This will help nurture and promote desired behaviours to create and benefit from an innovation culture.
  1. Connecting people and ideas – It takes a combination of business, social and technology innovations to really make an impact – for example, a clean tech solution provider described how it’s solar power product creates income streams (business innovation) for roof owners who chose their aerodynamic solar panels (tech innovation) which can be installed without risky invasive fastenings onto rooftops. Also, they’re the biggest distributor of solar powered lamps in Africa (social innovation).
  1. Communication is key – the summit presentations provided a balanced a mix of vendors / service providers and end user organisations with real case studies to provide a fertile ground for sharing progressive thinking about innovation. Some of the presentations, innovative products, services and initiatives described or demo’ed at the event were indeed amazing to behold.
  1. Seeing is believing – For example, one of the sponsors demonstrated a 2 sided innovation approach with a workshop designed to allow participants to appreciate the need to address both external (your customers) and internal (your organisation) requirements for innovation. This is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of innovation efforts, in my opinion. The question of ROI, aka what’s in it for your firm, will always trump even the most innovative customer solutions.
  1. The cool tech factor – Of course, the usual collection of toys and gadgets were on display from sponsors, vendors and attendees – e.g. I even had a photo op with Google Glass at lunch, courtesy of a fellow attendee – it seems wearable computing devices are de rigeur for every tech innovation conversation these days.

In conclusion, and to answer some of my initial questions, it is obvious that more people and organisations are looking to innovate in order to survive and thrive in today’s business environment, and this event highlighted the continuous need for dialogue and cross-fertilization of ideas between all stakeholder. Therefore the role of a Chief Innovation Officer is suited to someone who understands the need to nurture the culture, make connections and communicate with all stakeholders about innovation.  In Capgemini, our innovation groups understand the triple need to nurture, connect and communicate innovation across an ecosystem of partners, clients, employees, suppliers, and even competitors, in order to realise the full benefits from innovation.

Full marks out of ten for the summit organisers and I certainly look forward to participating, and perhaps even presenting, at another one of their excellent series of events.

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