Can an Interim Chief Innovation Officer Kick-Start Stalled Growth?

Can an Interim Chief Innovation Officer Kick-Start Stalled Growth?

Growth strategies are one of the three topics that are top of mind for US CEOs in 2021, according to a study by PwC. Yet 86 percent of CEOs will fail at creating sustained growth, according to Bain & Company.

Should you call in an interim chief innovation and growth officer (CInO)?

1. Good news. What have you announced lately that made your stock price soar? Your digital transformation? ESG initiatives? A KMPG study found 83 percent of mergers and acquisitions fail to increase shareholder value. Ninety percent of innovations fail. Why?

Resistance to change is normal. 90 percent of patients don’t change their lifestyles after bypass surgery, even when told they will die. Think Tesla, Apple. It took inspirational innovation leaders to change the world.

2. Isn’t innovation everybody’s job?  Yes, and different people are best at different types of innovation. Your CInO should be able to correlate obtuse research, competition, trends, data, and human behavior into a patented idea that generates $800 million incremental sales, or a method that increases retail revenue by 900%. Or be able to identify someone else’s idea that will. Some people are best inventing big earners. Others are best at supporting innovation, while others thrive improving incremental innovation or processes.

Instead of adding another annoying discount pop-up or chatbot on a retail website, should the focus be on how to prevent 70 percent of online shoppers from going to Amazon first? Which would deliver more revenue growth?

The CInO sees the big picture, can identify top growth priorities and help you say “no” and “yes!” The best innovation leads have run P&Ls and understand how to leverage assets, mitigate risk, and read financials. Your innovation and growth lead must be that person who initiated and delivered huge change that drove substantial revenue repeatedly, because it demonstrates they understood human behavior, and how your company can serve people’s desires.

Are you retaining those new super-smart diverse (sometimes young) employees?  A CInO improves retention. New loves new.

3. Stop failing fast. You’ve heard the agile mantra:  “Fail fast.” Don’t believe the hype. In some cases, failing fast is borne of thinking that a handful of people using sticky notes and picking the most popular idea is a good way to decide what to build. It isn’t. So they keep failing over and over, faster and faster. Because if that many people thought of an idea, your competitors are already doing it. The best thing to build comes from unmet desire. And that is found from research and data. Succeed fast. That’s what the right CInO instigates. Try research-based design-thinking.

4. Failing to scale. A great CInO knows the pitfalls of employee-wide suggestion boxes, incubators, idea labs, and innovation divisions. These typically fail to scale, often do little to grow the core business, and create us-and-them fractions among employees. Even with the best growth ideas, Harvard Business Review reported that 67 percent of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution.

5. You’re sure you’ll survive, but will you?  Research shows that since 2000, 52 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist. You have a whole new set of competitors and they’re after your customers. Do you know who they are? Who they will be? Do you know your Achilles that will enable them to steal your market share? Your innovation lead will and can zoom past them to the market gap.

6. Great idea, but where are the customers? The great innovation lead also has a marketing background understanding the target markets and how to reach them. If a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody there to hear it, did it make a sound? If you create something and nobody knows about it or buys it, was it a good idea?  Does your focused ESG strategy drive growth or are you checking boxes? How can you turn costly cybersecurity initiatives into consumer benefits they’re willing to pay more for?

“Although 84 percent of executives agree that innovation is important to growth strategy, only 6 percent are satisfied with innovation performance.” 6 percent. Change agents might try an interim CInO.

InterimExecs RED Team is an elite group of CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and CISOs who help organizations through turnaround, growth (merger, acquisitions, ERP/CRM implementation, process improvement), or absence of leadership. Learn more about InterimExecs RED Team at or call +1 (847) 849-2800.

More Resources:
*Expanding and Scaling Your Company: The Growth Interim’s Success Stages
*5 Times Companies Should Choose Interim Management Over a Full-Time Executive

About the Author

Babs Ryan

Babs Ryan is a board director, Fortune 10 chief innovation officer, P&L leader and agile principal. She has 7 financial services, retail, and consumer patents, one generating $800 million incremental revenue and has been onsite in 88 countries. She can be reached at