There’s been a lot of talk about the newest member of the C-Suite: the Chief Innovation Officer, who is tasked with driving enterprise growth through innovation. If you think that sounds vague, it’s time you learned what the (new) CIO does to make your job better.

The Birth of the Chief Innovation Officer

The new CIO role was borne out of a need to develop distinctive enterprise-level capabilities which could help companies achieve more organic growth than their competitors. The idea is that if you could change the way you work, perhaps you’d not only make things better, but you’d also work smarter -- which in turn could lead to better ideas and products. But how exactly does change get integrated? As we know, most companies don’t handle change well.

Enter the CIO. Part listener, part change agent, part data scientist, but most importantly an optimist, the chief innovation officer is searching for the unknowns. It’s not always enough to find all the inefficiencies. Working efficiently doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re working smarter -- it just means you’re working faster. The CIO is about laying the groundwork for an agile infrastructure, which -- if the company has been around for centuries -- isn’t always easy to do.

Check out the other roles in the C-Suite in Marisa feature series.

Experiment, Adapt, Evaluate

Remember when Box’s CEO Aaron Levie said that startups have “an unfair advantage” over the incumbents in the enterprise world today? He meant that new companies don’t have legacy systems, they don’t have “traditional” ways of doing things and thus they can adapt much more easily than their massive corporation counterparts. The chief innovation officer is not only looking for what new systems can be put into place, but looking for ways to experiment. Genuinely curious about what can happen if you try new things, the CIO walks a very fine line. Too much change in a short amount of time and you’ll seem out of control; too few changes over a long period time and you’re not radical enough.

Learning Opportunities


Good & IBM, examples of successful enterprise innovation, developed this infographic to highlight that innovation is not just about developing new and up-to-date technology, but rather about creating cutting-edge services, finding new business methods and markets, creating new organizational practices, adding value to already-existing products and more. 

New technology and ideas are only as good as the people who will be using them. Therefore, CIOs spend time identifying the right people -- those who are disciplined, motivated and adaptable -- within companies. These allies will help CIOs test new ideas and concepts without disrupting others.

Any company can have an innovation officer -- but not every company will fully embrace the opportunity by taking the time to measure, experiment, analyze the actions of its processes. Innovation is the catalyst to growth, but unless you find value in the growth, growing for the sake of growing isn't very innovative.

Editor's note: To read more about strategies for embracing innovation, check out Social Business = Humanized Business, The Idea-Driven Workforce: Finding New Ways to Engage Employees in Innovation (and Part 2).