Skills and Talents of Successful Chief Innovation Officer

In the age of Artificial Intelligence and rapid technological change, the role of the Chief Innovation Officer is becoming even more important.

George Krasadakis
The Innovation Machine
4 min readNov 23, 2023


In a previous article, I outlined the mission of the Chief Innovation Officer and the essential responsibilities. In this article, I am presenting the talents and skills that I consider to be essential for a great Chief Innovation Officer.

The skills and talents that make a great CINO

  1. Strategic thinking. The Chief Innovation Officer must be able to connect the purpose and strategy of the company with the innovation initiatives and programs happening across the organization. More specifically, the CINO must translate the corporate strategy purpose and objectives into ‘focus areas’ or a broader ‘Innovation Agenda’ that acts as the North Star for the innovation efforts. A Chief Innovation Officer is expected to shape and prioritize initiatives, programs, roadmaps, plans, and projects that best support the strategy and focus of the organization.
  2. Deep understanding of the technology landscape. The role of the Chief Innovation Officer is demanding and multifaceted. Successful CINOs understand both the capabilities and the limitations of current technologies: they understand not only what is feasible (and imporant) now but also what will become feasible (and important) in the innovation horizon of the company.
  3. Deep understanding of the product development process. Whether a digital or physical product, the Chief Innovation Officer must know how a product is conceived, designed, validated, built, launched, and operated. Experience in actual product development with a strong innovation focus is a major success factor for the Chief Innovation Officer.
  4. Mastery of the Innovation Process. The Innovation process, especially in a corporate environment, can become rather complex, expensive, and occasionally slow. The Chief Innovation Officer must be able to make the right adjustments and interventions at the right time. A Chief Innovation Officer knows what innovation processes make sense for the organization, what tools are needed, and what methods are most effective in a given situation. A successful CINO understands how certain resources e.g. Innovation Technology Stack, the Innovation toolkits, templates etc. can accelerate innovation and drive real value for the business.
  5. Able to speak ‘corporate’, ‘product’, and ‘technical’ languages. This is an essential skill — a successful Chief Innovation Officer must be comofrable (and effecive) to communicate with a diverse grouop of stakeholders — product managers, patent attorneys, engineers, and designers along with the C-Suite. A challenging requirement.
  6. A role model for innovation. The CINO must be hands-on, ready to innovate and contribute at various stages of the innovation process. Seeing the Chief Innovation Officer actively participating as innovator (ideating, discovering, learning, pitching, questioning) is one of the most inspiring experiences that can further motivate teams and the community of innovators.
  7. Able to effectively manage Risk and Failure. The Chief Innovation Officer must have a special mindset and a certain risk attitude. More specifaically, an effective CINO must be able to quantify risk and its impact and have the willingness to take calculated risks. Moreover, when failure happens, the CINO knows how to handle it and how to convert it into a learning event — allowing the team to gain experience while feeling ‘safe’ to fail (under certain conditions of course — I am covering this and the ‘fail-safe, fail-fast’ approach in a different article)
  8. Able to prioritize wisely. Ideas, projects, and initiatives all compete for the same corporate resources. The Chief Innovation Officer must be able to prioritize wisely towards a defined mix of risk and disrupt opportunity — a balanced Innovation Portfolio that serves the organizational purpose and strategy.

Furthermore, a successful Chief Innovation Officer must be adaptive and ready to innovate the Innovation Process itself: given that the cultural, financial, and operational states of a company change drastically over time, the CINO must be able to adapt by identifying what is most important about the innovation process itself.

For example, the Chief Innovation Officer must be decisive in terms of the Innovation Programs to be introduced or suspended to help the company deal with a particular challenge or a crisis. The CINO must be able to select the tools and methods that are expected to bring more value to the Innovation Process; or run the most suitable innovation events (hackathons, design sprints, brainstorming, workshops, etc.) that have the potential to increase the morale and inspire the community of innovators.

I like to think of the Chief Innovation Officer as the conductor of a big orchestra that composes its own music.



George Krasadakis
The Innovation Machine

Technology & Product Director - Corporate Innovation - Data & Artificial Intelligence. Author of Opinions and views are my own