Every organization needs innovation - not just to thrive but to just survive in today's disruptive world. That's why I've spent my last 25 years focused on innovation and why I've described how organizational lag stifles it in most companies. That's also why I've covered topics like innovation culture, technology platforms, and business model innovation.

Over the past 10 years, more and more companies have hired senior executives to lead their innovation efforts. Marriott has a VP of Customer Experience Innovation. CSAA Insurance Group has a Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer. The City of San Francisco has a Chief Innovation Officer. A quick search on LinkedIn using the term "Chief Innovation Officer" reveals almost 200 open positions.

Even with this trend, it's amazing to me how few companies understand the key job role and expected outcome of this essential function. Part of the problem is that most organizations aren't clear what "innovation" means to them in the first place, and especially whether they want incremental improvements or truly disruptive business opportunities.  More and more companies want "cultures of innovation" which muddies the water even more since this concept is internally focused versus externally driven by real market opportunities.

Recently, I've been asked to provide guidance on the Chief Innovation Officer role by several of my Fortune 500 clients. Instead of responding by providing a theoretical manifesto about the misperceptions and conflicting demands of the role, I decided to do something much more practical - I created a job description template for them to adapt and use in their actual recruiting.

Here's the essence of the Chief Innovation Officer Job Description that I provided, which is freely available for download. The job description highlights the fact that most Chief Innovation Officers have three roles:

  1. Drive New Growth Opportunities - Identify, prioritize, develop, and launch new products, services and business models
  2. Build and Grow Innovation Capabilities - Create new organizational capabilities, including technical and people-driven, that ensure a steady stream of innovations
  3. Champion Innovation - Evangelize innovation internally and externally to influence the brand in the market and create pull for creative talent

A Chief Innovation Officer that does these things helps the company achieve the following results:

  • Creates an innovation strategy that is understood and endorsed by key stakeholders including executive leadership, employees, customers, and partners
  • Builds a well-balanced innovation portfolio and roadmap that drives investments & top line growth
  • Ensures the company is successful in taking its innovations to market in a timely and scalable way
  • Uses innovation to differentiate the company in the market, provide unique value to customers and help build long-term relationships with customers
  • Evangelizes innovation so the company is viewed as innovative, visionary and a market leader by customers, industry groups and media

It's one thing to say you want innovation. It's another to hire people that will push business boundaries, challenge long-held assumptions, and generally stir things up.  That's the role of the Chief Innovation Officer.