Although it’s not named in this article, “corporate innovation” is getting close to being one of those buzzwords used in bingo games at Annual Kickoff Meetings around the globe. Of course every corporation wants to “innovate”, and the title of “Chief Innovation Officer” has become a thing. It sounds great. It looks great on paper. But what is that person’s actual job, and how are they held accountable for actually doing that job?

The Chief Innovation Officer’s job is to manage the Corporate Innovation Lifecycle. That sounds even more buzzword-worthy, but it’s real. Below is the Corporate Innovation Lifecycle defined.

Problem Identification→ Solution→ Concept→ MVP→ Escape Velocity→ Scale

At every stage of this cycle, there should be an expectation of ROI. You don’t invest in something that is not even expected to make any returns. Yet we see this every day at those corporations that simply add “innovation” to someone’s title as window dressing. Here’s what usually happens at such organizations.

  • Mission: Start getting our people to “think differently”
  • Results: Engage with younger staff, invigorate staff, increase retention/recruitment. External market message
  • Investment model: no expected tangible returns
  • Artifacts: identify staff that are inventive, smart and motivated

Have a plan. Don’t be window dressing. Break things. Try new things. Be accountable.