Organizations are generally led by a predictable C-suite of traditional roles with traditional responsibilities. The Chief Executive Officer reads reports from her Chief Financial Officer about the work of the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Sales Officer. The Chief Technology Officer and Chief Human Resource Officer team up with the Chief Marketing Officer to deliver quarterly objectives.
While this conventional approach has long worked for mature, established companies, why do those same sleeping giants get bested by lean startups who lack nearly every resource but entrepreneurial fire? Mid-sized and smaller organizations are also not immune from the knockout punch of an innovative startup approach. If the biggest risk many organizations face is being upended by a rule-breaking startup, why not fight back with your own creative verve?
My suggestion: add a new executive to the team...the Chief Startup Officer (CSUO).Imagine a senior leader whose full-time job is to reimagine the organization. With budget, team, and authority, the "CSUO" would explore what's possible instead of simply protect what's present. The job would be to proactively disrupt the company from within, rather than waiting around for a real-world competitor to deal a fatal blow. Experimentation, challenging conventional wisdom, pushing the boundaries, exploring non-traditional approaches... all part of the new job description. If I took the helm of a large, mature organization, this would be one of my first and most important new hires.
If you have the resources to appoint a full-time, whip smart, deeply talented CSUO, I highly recommend it. But if you simply can't make that happen in your organization, why not at least appoint an imaginary one? This made-up teammate (let's call her Chloe) would be a joint creation of your most senior leaders. There would be a physical seat at every meeting for her, and her input would be considered for each major decision. "What would Chloe do?" can be your checks-and-balances mantra against complacency. In other settings, live team members could play the role of Chloe, by acting out her role as the CSUO (costumes and props are highly recommended).
In business today, there's no shortage of the grumpy number cruncher, the short-sighted operational expert, or the rule-following bureaucrat. If we truly want to create a powerful future and enjoy sustainable success, let's give voice to the passionate startup entrepreneur as well. Have your CSUO join your executive team - either physically or symbolically - and you'll discover fresh approaches to growth, creativity, and transformation.
Fight back against the Chief Extinction Officer, the VP of Stagnation, and the Senior Director of Bureaucracy with this new, powerful role. In the end, your customers, shareholders, and team members will all rejoice.