16 traits of a world class chief innovation officer

Your innovation program, and the role of the CINO, is too important to leave to chance. Make sure whoever holds the top innovation job has these essential qualities.

A businesswoman looks into the distance amid abstract technology, colleagues in background.
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As organizations look to accelerate growth, uncover new opportunities, and foster a culture of innovation, they’re often formalizing their innovation programs or expanding the purview of their existing programs. As they do this, the role of the chief innovation officer (CINO) is becoming increasingly important and needs to be carefully designed to achieve these goals.

While I’ve made the case in the past why you don’t need a Chief [insert new tech name here] Officer for every new hot topic, the CINO is a key position with a clear distinction in role and responsibility from the chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO), and chief digital officer (CDO) and is essential for many of today’s organizations. Much like the CDO, the CINO role requires a team player who is a highly collaborative and influential leader, well-versed in working across business and IT.

Whether you’re filling the role internally or externally, here are 16 traits and qualities of a world-class CINO that you'll want to look for when evaluating candidates and in shaping the role.

Collaborative — One of the most important traits for any CINO is that they are highly-collaborative and a team player. As innovations move from promising idea to business value, there’s a multitude of decision points and handoffs; the CINO needs to understand and manage expectations of stakeholders and to minimize the many strategy, process, and culture-related pitfalls along the way. 

Valuing diversity — Studies have shown that organizations with both inherent and acquired diversity in their teams are 45% more likely to have grown market share and are 70% more likely to have captured a new market. The CINO should be a champion of diversity and bring their own inherent or acquired diversity to the table. Perhaps counterintuitively, and with a few exceptions, the CINO does not need to be someone with extensive years of experience in your industry. With digital transformation requiring every company to be a technology company, skills acquired in other industries and adjacencies may be even more attractive than more of the same.    

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