Who inspires your team?
Who develops the ideas, promotes an environment that fosters creative camaraderie, nourishes esprit de corps -- and steers the organization toward greatness?
In short, who is your Chief Innovation Officer?
Every organization that grows by creating new products or services or aspires to out-class the competition needs a Chief Innovation Officer, or CIO.
In Robert's Rules of Innovation, "Inspiration" is the first and most important of the 10 imperatives. Inspiration drives everything else -- from ideation to new product development to risk-taking itself.
Yet the selection of the CIO, and the definition of his or her tasks in seeing that these challenges are skillfully mastered, can make the difference between innovative success and failure.
What does the CIO do? He or she . . .
- Shows support from the top. Ideally, this position is held by the organization's chief executive or president -- someone who leads by example and walks the talk. Alternatively, and in a larger organization, he or she may be a "Crown Prince" -- someone hand-picked by the executive leadership to oversee the task of inspiring greatness from within the team. It's important that if the CIO is not the CEO or president, that he or she has the blessing of the senior executive. Otherwise, his or her ideas, inspirations or suggestions might be rebuffed.
- Communicates Overarching Goals and Progress. The imperative should be to over-communicate and under-promise. Such communication keeps the organization focused on the vision, successes and failures.
- Builds a "Communication Corridor." This practice of two-way traffic enables ideas to flow freely for equal consideration and sharing throughout a trusting enterprise. The open-door policy gives every participant a voice and motivation to say what needs to be said -- even if they believe the project at hand is a losing proposition. Fear of retribution should never discourage people from speaking their minds.
- Connects the Silos. Better yet, he or she demolishes them. Knock down the barriers that keep silos apart by creating cross-functional teams.
- Commissions Cross-Group Stakeholders. These "champions across projects" should have the authority and budgets to test, learn and lead multiple groups through the process and assure ownership across groups is achieved. Bullies need not apply. These champions should encourage buy-in so innovation isn't stymied or blocked.
This isn't just for Fortune 500 corporations. Smaller organizations have more to gain from installing a CIO. This helps send the message that the position -- and the commitment behind it -- are vital to the organization's long-term growth.
Whatever the size of the organization, inspiration is only valid if it's derived from the vision, mission or strategy of the company -- and driven by an executive empowered to see it through.
© 2010 Robert F. Brands, author of Robert's Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival
Robert F. Brands, author of Robert's Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, is President and founder of Brands & Company, LLC (www.innovationcoach.com). Having gained hands-on experience in bringing innovation to market, creating and improving the necessary product development processes and needed culture, he delivered on his charter to bring "at least one new product per year to market" -- resulting in double-digit profitable growth and share-holder value.