One of the hottest jobs in the C-suite these days is the chief innovation officer, or CINO. Since the role is relatively new, however, a standard definition of it has yet to emerge. 

There are six main types of innovation officers. These profiles will help you understand what type of innovation you’re after and which type of people can best deliver it. 

The Researcher

Researchers use scientific methodology to tame the profusion of ideas and wrest insights from a multitude of data. They thrive in environments where innovation is as much about determining the right questions as it is about finding the answers. They make the best CINOs in organizations where competition demands true step-change advances and for which intellectual property rules are enforceable — such as pharmaceutical, aerospace and defense, and materials-manufacturing companies.

To prosper, researchers require generous funding and strong business partners who’ll guide them toward ideas that are not just interesting but lucrative. They also need an organization that’s willing to make near-term investments for longer-term gains.

The Engineer

Engineers focus on hands-on exploration, expert brainstorming, and many tests. They’re most suited to industries where the complexity of technology and its integration create opportunities for myriad incremental improvements and occasional leaps of imagination – like technology hardware manufacturing and the automotive industry.

To be most effective, engineers need to be given a way to evaluate the feasibility and attractiveness of their solutions through prototyping and tests with real customers. Their bosses may also have to rein in engineers’ tendency to chase after every new product, which can lead to chaos if left unchecked.

The Investor

One of the rarest species of CINO is the investor. For investors, successful innovation involves carefully allocating resources in order to optimize selective opportunities. These executives are analytical, financially savvy, data focused, and driven. 

Investors thrive in fast-moving environments where innovation can come from any direction and in many forms. Their focus is making sense of a mass of complex and conflicting information and betting on the right horse. Consumer goods businesses, whose essential growth task is choosing the right portfolio of innovations, often need this kind of CINO.

To be at their best, investors should partner with a technical expert who can help them assess the feasibility and future potential of ideas, not just their current performance. 

The Advocate

Advocates often start with big aspirations – specifically, the customer’s. Advocates know their customers and are on a mission to explore and fulfill their needs.

Advocates thrive in fast-moving industries with a strong sense of what is hot and what is not, such as apparel, media, and advertising. Their focus is on keeping the brand relevant, crafting the right identity, predicting the future, and creating buzz, as well as generating sales. 

Advocates are good at delivering immediately usable innovation and sensing where the customers wish to go next – but their obsession with novelty can lead them to pursue too many directions at once. They are best when partnered with a strategist who can discipline their thinking and channel their insights into a long-term course of action.

The Motivator

Motivators work to unleash the employees’ (and sometimes the customers’) creative spirit. That often involves getting the people and the culture focused on vision and imagination while reducing bureaucracy, complexity, and risk aversion. Motivators are distinguished by their fascination with narrative, people, and talent.

Motivators tend to be found in organizations that are trying to reinvent themselves. Motivators can skillfully shake up the organization by creating an inviting space for others to innovate within: putting in place the right incentives, organizational designs, and capabilities; and protecting the mavericks while encouraging the quiet voices to contribute.

Bringing about cultural change is difficult, so the support of the CEO and the board is critical for them.

The Organizer

Organizers believe that processes rule. They’re often more passionate about doing things properly than about innovation itself. 

Organizers are particularly attracted to professional services, academia, and government, fields with many knowledge workers. Organizers can be highly valuable in companies where innovation efforts require wide employee participation and the real challenge is adequately managing them. Assuming there are fresh ideas to run through their processes, organizers create momentum, galvanize support, and deftly navigate politics to help innovations go from idea to reality.

Organizers are usually effective – but can also lose sight of the big picture. They need partners who understand customers to help them focus on the right issues – and motivators to help them see when risk taking should prevail.

By being clear about the kind of innovation your organization needs the most, finding the right candidate, and, ultimately, creating the right habitat — you will set your CINO up for success.

Source: Harvard Business Review