Team Insight

Hiring a Chief Innovation Officer doesn’t fix your innovation problem (spoiler it most likely will make it worse)

Rachel Gawley profile image By Rachel, Chief Innovation Officer

Only a CIO can get away with that claim and currently that’s my job title. Am I the only one who can make innovation happen in my company? Hell no.

By giving me that title, I can quickly become the blocker and high risk of creating the conditions to stifle all creativity. Hiring someone to lead innovation does not tick a box, or absolve everyone else from caring about this or acting on it. Unfortunately, this is often the case and it is a quick downward spiral into all things new and shiny being widely dismissed. Why does innovation get such a bad rep? It’s mostly because people dislike change, not for the fear of the unknown but because change just happens to them, there is no choice, no transition, it’s just suddenly there.

My new title stacks the deck against me achieving my goal of creating meaningful new products and businesses, to continue to research and evolve what we do every day. I live in a world, where if it smells remotely new or different, it is now solely my responsibility, it’s a tough gig. What’s the answer? Firstly, it’s not just with me, it’s with us as a team. My role is to hand away what is seen as my ability, title and right to be innovative, creative and visionary to everyone else.

We bake it into everyone’s jobs and take it beyond - develop a mindset and methodology to empower people. When you do this, what we do becomes enriching and adds real value to what we do every day.

That’s not the only problem being a CINO, sometimes when innovation happens, things need to pause and reset before they begin to grow. It’s mindful progress, evolution and growth almost like a period of hibernation and reflection. You go in a cub, you come out a bear if you come out at all. This process isn’t for everyone, some people want to stay the same forever. The best you can do is offer them to come on the journey with you, it’s okay if they stop before the destination.