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innovation leadership

Innovation Leadership – Strategies for Executives

Despite a focus on disruptive innovation, collaboration is lacking between business units, and the necessary structures between corporate entities and partners are often missing, causing breakdowns in the innovation process and missed opportunities.   

The Key to Driving Enterprise Innovation?

Strategy and Alignment Starting with Corporate Leadership

Most companies today consider innovation one of their top-five strategic objectives. The C-Suite holds the key to successful innovation, which can be realized through proper vision and alignment at the top, and then rolled out to the rest of the organization through a coordinated effort.  
A sustainable innovation program includes leadership roles (CEO, CTO, CIO, CFO, CMO, COO, CPO, CINO) all dedicated to collaborating and supporting innovational projects across interconnected departments. 

Chief Innovation Officer and innovation program strategist, Dr. Matthew Heim, details the priorities of each executive role below.  

Executive Oversight:  Vision, Sponsorship & Accountability

It is one thing to demand innovation, but another to take an active role in enabling it.  The CEO has the opportunity to facilitate the creation of a new innovation vision and bring together those members of the leadership team who hold the knowledge and skills in their respective areas to create an innovation strategy.  The CEO can then take an active sponsorship role by removing those roadblocks that can impair the realization of the vision, thereby holding  those accountable who can contribute to its realization.  The CEO must conduct the orchestra, ensuring that all vital instruments are in sync, and all players are stepping up when needed to actualize the vision. 

Research & Development: Discovering New Horizons of Disruptive Product Capability

The CTO was traditionally the one held solely responsible for innovation and can continue to play an instrumental role in researching the technologies and capabilities that will take the company’s product to new heights.  The CTO must expand research and development out beyond the laboratory walls and engage with the abundance of potential solution providers through Open Innovation. 

Information Services: Digitizing Data and Providing New Means of Accessibility

The CIO has the means of identifying and implementing new ways of enabling product-service integration, engaging the customer, and using the company’s data to expand the product and service value to the customer.  New apps and other means of customer engagement are disrupting entire markets in an unprecedented way, extending customer engagement beyond the initial product sale.  Proactive IS integration with innovation teams can lead to more creative and expansive products and service capabilities. 

Finance:  Creating New Business Models and Consumer Options

CFOs today play a much more strategic role than ever before, ensuring that new, more creative business models are developed to enhance the life of the customer.  New business models can provide higher value to the customer, while generating additional and more “sticky” revenue streams beyond the initial sale.  Finance’s participation in the innovation process can lead to more creative solutions as well as higher levels of customer engagement. 

Sales & Marketing: Changing the Ways We Go to Market

The CMO has the opportunity to find new partnerships and collaborations that would allow the extension and expansion of existing products and services into new domains, and to engage customers in ways that deliver more value.  Maintaining a cross-industry perspective enables the rapid identification of new domains in which the company can participate as well new channel partnerships through which the company can sell at scale.  The Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) can help identify new customer engagement models that can lead to increased and recurring sales opportunities.

Operations:  Adapting the Organization for Rapid Change

Once a new product is conceived, the organization must be ready to deliver.  The COO must be in lockstep with other teams to provide the proper re-tooling, material supply and personnel to quickly adapt to the changes necessary to realize the new products and services.  The Chief People Officer (CPO) must also work in unison, ensuring that the proper reward systems are in place that will drive newly desired behaviors that underlie the successful delivery of the new product or service.

The Innovation Office:  Bringing it All Together 

Most Chief Innovation Officers today have a challenging role, in that they carry the responsibility of one of the most strategic objectives of the company, yet they have very little staff, and virtually no responsibility over those whom they would need to realize key initiatives.  With the proper alignment across the C-Suite, and the engaged sponsorship of the CEO, the Innovation Office can become the glue that holds it all together, ensuring the proper coordination, engagement and execution across all functional areas and partners, to deliver the most impactful innovations possible.  The CINO must have the support and power, granted and assured by the CEO, to engage with other corporate entities, and expect results based on KPIs and resource commitments agreed upon within the C-Suite. 

Once alignment and vision are achieved across management, other operational processes, resource assignments and KPIs can be rolled out under a single unified innovation strategy.  Innovation initiatives will become much more coherent, allowing the entire company to work in unison, achieving the most profound innovations imaginable.   

Ezassi Innovation Consulting Services

To set up a conversation about your organization’s innovation strategies, please fill out the form and our Ezassi Innovation Team will be in touch. 

Matthew Heim