Monday, June 19, 2006

Champions Of Innovation - Have you ever wondered what ‘Innovation Champions’ do, who they are, and what some of their key innovation messages are?

Well wonder no more. BusinessWeek have surveyed a group of 25 ‘Champions of Innovation’ or as they are becoming more commonly know, Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs), who in the past three years have increased their numbers four-fold in numbers.

What are they doing?

These CIOs are charged with making “innovation routine, not random; central, not marginal; exciting, not scary. They educate, inspire, cajole, hire, bribe, punish, build -- all to transform their companies' cultures”.

Why are these CIO’s charged with such a mission?

The answer is fairly straightforward. “In an era when Six Sigma controls no longer guarantee competitive advantage, when outsourcing to China and India is universal, when creeping commoditization of products, services, and information hammers prices, innovation is the new currency of competition. It is the key to organic growth, the lever to widen profit margins, the Holy Grail of 21st century business”.

How do they achieve this mission?

Whilst there is no single uniform description for these CIOs, they do possess common traits that help them achieve their mission. Firstly they are customer focused – in its broader sense (although the article describes this more specifically as design and user-friendliness). Secondly, “they derive their clout from the top” i.e. the CEO is fully supportive and behind innovation. Thirdly, 70 percent of them are women, although how indicative this sample is of all the ‘CIOs’ and if women are more creative than men is not verified.

What are their key innovation messages?

From the broader group of 25, five ‘CIOs’ from Google, Old Navy, P&G, Hewlett-Packard and Citigroup were interviewed in more detail to accompany the main article. These are well worth a read, if only to see what a typical day is like for a ‘CIO’ in one of these organizations. Although I’m still trying to imagine how Marissa Mayer from Google manages on 5 hours of sleep! So what are some of the key messages?

Ideas come from everywhere, share everything you can (ideas, projects etc.), if you’re brilliant we’re hiring, license to pursue dreams, innovation not instant perfection, don’t politic use data, creativity loves restraint, worry about usage and users not money, don’t kill projects – morph them. Extracted from the ‘Nine Notions of Innovation’ - Marissa Mayer, Google.

“You can’t get the right outputs without giving people the right inputs” – Ivy Ross, Old Navy.

“Innovate by being connected and inspired by people around you. By creative by being transparent, open and stimulated by outside, global ideas (i.e Open Innovation)” – Claudia Kotcha, P&G.

Live and breathe with the customer – Sam Lucente, Hewlett-Packard.

Build a portfolio of small, ethnographically derived and metric-proven innovation ideas. Build Failure into the model. “Racking up early wins is key to getting widespread buy in”. – Amy Radin, CitiGroup

This is a good read and great insight into the daily lives of this newly emerging group of C-level managers. Enjoy.

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