Monday, September 7, 2009

Town Crier for Innovation

Andrew and Sirkin said, the “Chief innovator is a role often played by the CEO or chairman, especially when the company must make a change from another business strategy, such as cost cutting, merger and acquisition, or geographic expansion.” IDEO CEO Tom Kelley likewise noted, “The role of Director s more complex and nuanced than any other in the world of innovation…You are not just in charge of today’s operations. You are responsible for making sure there is a tomorrow.”

While the CEO takes numerous actions to encourage innovation, including giving permission and providing specific resources, the most important role of the CEO is to loudly, continually, and convincingly promote the absolute necessity of innovation. Corporate executives must publically endorse innovative work to signal their expectation of others in the company to provide cooperation and assistance. As author Scott Berkun noted, “Whether through power, inspiration, or charisma, managers have the singular burden of protecting their teams…If a project needs more time, money, or political cover fire than its leader can provide, the effort will be discovered, lobotomized, or killed.” It is impossible to over-communicate the necessity of innovation and the CEO should utilize as many communication methods as possible to continually focus employee attention on innovation. Whether through formal speeches, memoranda, emails, annual reports, videos, or face-to-face meetings, the drumbeat must always echo the same theme: “Innovation is critical to our corporate future, and everyone is expected to actively participate.”

Dr. Gary Oster
Regent University
School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship


Innovation, leadership, corporate communications, resilience


Andrew, J. & Sirkin, H. (2006). Payback: reaping the rewards of innovation. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Berkun, S. (2007). The myths of innovation. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Kelley, T. (2005). The ten faces of innovation. New York: Currency Doubleday.