What's a Chief Innovation Officer?

Introducing the CINO

You've heard of CEO, CFO, CTO, CIO, COO, and CMO.

Many innovation-conscious companies have added another office to the C Suite: the CINO. CINO stands for Chief Innovation Officer.

What is a Chief Innovation Officer? Is it like hiring another Steve Jobs? Will this person hunker down in his or her office and triumphantly emerge with the next iPad?

When Kerry O'Conner was recently named the Chief Innovation Officer for the city of Austin, Michael Barnes of the Austin American Statesman pondered: "What the heck is a chief innovation officer anyway?"


Here are some things that a Chief Innovation Officer does:

  • Builds culture. "Culture eats strategy for breakfast" as Peter Drucker said. Building culture involves fostering receptive attitudes towards change, iteration, and failure. Furthermore, it involves educating everyone well enough, and encouraging everyone to be mindful enough, to identify opportunities for innovation as they arise. Everyone means everyone.
  • Identifies opportunities. As posters in the New York subway remind us, "See something, say something," so the CINO establishes feedback systems so that opportunities identified by team members throughout the organization are captured and not lost. Opportunities present themselves in a variety of forms, including data.
  • Exploits opportunities in a systematic way. Opportunities are identified and evaluated according to a systematic framework, including ideation and vetting. Project management includes next steps, accountabilities, and metrics, all the while looking for new innovation opportunities as the project progresses.
  • Watches the Sandbox. In software development, a sandbox is a prototyping area on a server, where the testing can be accomplished safely, without disrupting live production software. Likewise, innovative efforts need to be sandboxed from the established business until they are able to stand on their own. 
  • Aids in the establishment of entrepreneurial management practices. Innovative startups shouldn't be managed as if they were established businesses. And they shouldn't be mixed.
  • Promotes inside to outside, and outside to inside focus, including crowdsourcing and open innovation.
  • Aids in hiring innovative talent, with both the short and long view in mind.
  • Promotes creative disruption. It's better to disrupt your own busines than to wait for someone else to do it.


Here are some characteristics of a good Chief Innovation Officer:

  • Bridge person (collaborates well at all organizational levels and across all disciplines) 
  • Fluent in technology
  • Fluent in business
  • Harnesses the power of people 
  • Communicator
  • Strategist


A good Chief Innovation Officer will aid his or her company or organization to create new businesses, new services, with market leadership, and a greater yield from resources, for continuing survival, growth, and profits.

Who needs these outcomes? Enterprise. Small and Medium business. Startups. Education. Government. Nonprofits. All sectors and industries. Everywhere.

BTW, you can rent someone like that...