Chief Innovation Officer – An Insider or an Outsider?


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I predict that lots of companies are going to hire or appoint a Chief Innovation Officer (or someone with a similar title / area of responsibility) in the coming years. The reasons are quite compelling:

• Companies have starved their innovation efforts too much and now they need to revamp the innovation capabilities. I see this on my new business inquiries that are flowing faster than in a long time.

• This happens at the same time as we are witnessing some fundamental shifts in how companies approach innovation. Today, it is more about working with external partners and developing new business models rather than “just” focusing on internal resources and products / technologies. We are also starting to see a separation between R&D and innovation; they are not necessarily the same thing.

As companies are about the restart their innovation engines, the inevitable question is what kind of person should lead this. This takes me back to a recent blog post in which I shared some of my views on what innovation talent will look like in the future. Check this post: 5 Reflections on Innovation Talent

Some of my views in the blog post are that future leaders create communities and focus on creating the right frameworks and conditions in order for innovation talent to develop successful products and services.

Hopefully, these insights can get you started thinking on what I believe is a critical question.

Should the Chief Innovation Officer be an insider or an outsider?

There are definitely pro’s and con’s to this and although the fast pace of change favors an outsider with the right mindset and toolbox, there are lots of reasons for choosing the insider.

One is that innovation management in the future will be about change management to a high degree and if you are going to rock the boat internally, it might work the best with an insider who already has political capital and knows how to play this game. But then again…the insider will only work if this person can upgrade his or hers own mindset and toolbox. This could be difficult as it is so easy to fall into the trap of doing business as usual.

Hey, let the discussion begin… I really look forward to your comments and insights on this.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stefan Lindegaard
Stefan is an author, speaker, facilitator and consultant focusing on open innovation, social media tools and intrapreneurship.


  1. A very accurate issue. An insider is a structural need in any company these crisis days. The crisis is the result of the big economic change from the industrial era to the economy of knowledge. However, to push the innovation in the company an external hand help saving time by speeding up the processes and getting a commitment of all the human resources at all levels inside the company.

  2. I have always found having someone in charge of innovation and interesting thought. If there is a lack of innovation, the fault typically lies with those who are now trying to increase it. How are those who have created the problem able to recognize the procedures/people who can solve it? (we might hope for an epiphany of some sort) Should senior management find a suitable person, the best thing they can do is to stay out of the way. Steve Jobs had an interesting take on innovation when he said “It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”


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