Although it’s not named in this article, “corporate innovation” is getting close to being one of those buzzwords used in bingo games at Annual Kickoff Meetings around the globe. Of course every corporation wants to “innovate”, and the title of “Chief Innovation Officer” has become a thing. It sounds great. It looks great on paper. But what is that person’s actual job, and how are they held accountable for actually doing that job?
The Chief Innovation Officer’s job is to manage the Corporate Innovation Lifecycle. That sounds even more buzzword-worthy, but it’s real. Below is the Corporate Innovation Lifecycle defined.
Problem Identification→ Solution→ Concept→ MVP→ Escape Velocity→ Scale
At every stage of this cycle, there should be an expectation of ROI. You don’t invest in something that is not even expected to make any returns. Yet we see this every day at those corporations that simply add “innovation” to someone’s title as window dressing. Here’s what usually happens at such organizations.
- Mission: Start getting our people to “think differently”
- Results: Engage with younger staff, invigorate staff, increase retention/recruitment. External market message
- Investment model: no expected tangible returns
- Artifacts: identify staff that are inventive, smart and motivated
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. All with no ROI and no expected ROI. Window dressing. Here’s how it should be done.
- Mission: grow the business by discovering new talents, IP, untapped markets, and massive systemic markets & problems worthy of disruption.
- Strategy: Document and develop ideas from identified leaders within the organization. Engage with external talent to influence internal teams.
- Results: Provide a platform/workbench to take the interna entrepreneurs out of their day job to ideate, fail, and create. Yes, they are going to fail. That’s ok. If you don’t shoot, you will never score, and 90% of all startups fail.
- Investment model: create businesses or lines of business that can generate at least 20X ROI in 5 years.
- Artifacts: vetting of innovation staff, creation and marketing of new products, lessons from failure, measurable ROI.
Have a plan. Don’t be window dressing. Break things. Try new things. Be accountable.