Monday, August 24, 2009

Innovation custodians and their innovation philosophies

If we use the i-squared-p (idea + implementation + profit) definition of innovation, then it is inherently a cross-functional concept. However, organizations, especially large organizations are territorial. You manage either research or marketing or delivery or HR etc. Then the question arises: Who are the custodians of innovation? Which function do they belong to (research, marketing, design etc)? I looked into the 23 masters of innovation BusinessWeek put together from the 25 most innovative companies and here is what their titles look like:

Some observations: 2 out of 5 custodians have either technology or research function. 1 in 4 custodians is a CEO. 1 in 5 custodians has other C*O titles where * is development or operations or design or marketing or restaurant.

Are there any common themes in their innovation philosophies? Well, one theme which stands out is “putting customer at the heart”. 1 in every 2 custodians has said this in some form or the other. On the flip-side, 1 in 2 custodians haven’t mentioned customer in their philosophy. Perhaps it is “obvious” to some but perhaps customer isn’t at the heart for some. No. 2 common theme is “ideas come from everywhere” and 1 in 5 custodians has mentioned this. Other themes like “power of collaboration & diversity”, “Manage a portfolio”, “fail often fail fast” are below these two themes in terms of their popularity.


  1. An observation Vinay~
    The masters of innovation that the BW features's doesn't map with the most innovative companies BW and BCG identified a few weeks back. My view would be, if I replace the title- Masters of Innovation with Master of Quality or Service Excellence or Transformation or almost any corporate jargon, the list (titles) will pretty much remain the same.
    In my humble view- Innovation is nothing new. For all transformational ones, CXOs have been pretty much the part of the game, infact led those. What's happened is that current breed of CXOs are getting more serious about non-linear growth and hence innovation comes to forefront.

  2. Thanks, Pavan. I realized my mistake. The original question that got me thinking wasn't: Who are the custodians of innovation? It was: Who are the custodians of innovation engine? As you say, there are plenty of examples where various CXOs have led "an innovation". It could be a new product or a brand positioning or a culture transformation etc. However, what interests me is to see who is responsible for the innovation engine itself? Perhaps it needs a separate blog.