Staying competitive in 2020 is critical. There are so many companies out there and so many advanced technological tools, that being truly innovative is a challenge. In a world where anyone can have a highly polished website with the click of a button, how do you set yourself apart from the competition? How do you keep pushing forward in a world where treading water is heavily punished?
The key is innovation. It’s not enough to offer your customers the same as everyone else. You have to do more and be more. You have to create meaningful experiences for your customers or risk being left behind.
Why Innovation Is Important
Some industries are better at innovating than others. For example, if we look at the personal banking industry, you can clearly see who has innovated and who hasn’t. Especially in Europe, we’ve seen a huge rise in the number and customer adoption rates of fully online banks. In the past, most people would pick a bank for their personal banking needs and stick with this bank for most of their life. This meant that the banking industry could rely on a steady customer base and had little need to push for innovation. If you weren’t going to leave, then they didn’t have to convince you to stay. Sure, they’d make sure they didn’t give you a reason to run off to a competitor bank, but most of the time that just meant offering the same things as their competitors.
However, things changed, and they changed quickly. In Britain today, one in five Brits have accounts with three banks. People are now happy to shop around for their bank. They are paying attention to what banks can offer them. This shift in customer behavior has coincided with the rise of digital online banks. These are banks that only exist in the online space. They have no physical locations for you to visit and all applications for loans, overdrafts, and mortgages are handled over an app. The most popular digital banks are Starling Bank, Tide, Revolut, Atom, Tandem, and Monzo.
While traditional banks often have a huge budget to play, they don’t tend to adopt technology or innovate in digital services in the same way these new digital banks do. This may seem surprising. After all, traditional banks have a much longer financial history and generally have huge budgets to play with. However, they are also often tied down by outdated technology infrastructure. Overhauling antiquated systems is costly and time-consuming. It requires colossal scale projects and tons of resources.
With a digital bank, they can use the latest tech to build their bank from the ground up. They save costs on not having physical locations and instead put all of their money into developing highly competitive digital services.
Digital banks offer a range of services that improve quality of life when it comes to managing your finances. You can see your payments instantly. You can chat with customer service 24/7. Most have a budget planner and will give you a breakdown of your spending so you can see exactly how much you spend on bills, entertainment, eating out, or savings. They use modern digital tools to give you greater oversight and control of your finances in a way that traditional banks don’t. Most Brits still use a traditional bank but with more brits preferring mobile banking to visiting a branch, this is set to change. These banks are skyrocketing in popularity and people may just abandon their traditional banks altogether if they don’t start innovating in these areas.
Of course, innovation doesn’t just apply to banks, but all businesses. Innovate or risk losing your market share. Here at CommBox, we receive a high number of inquiries from CIOs wanting to invest in AI-driven solutions fit for modern business. This is where Chief Innovation Officers come in. CIOs want to bring innovation to their enterprises, and we offer expert innovative tools, with our primary focus being customer communications. Much like the example with the banks, communication is an area you can’t afford to ignore. Customer experience is everything in 2020 so you need a solution that can take communication to the next level. We find that innovating in the communications space is usually the top concern of CIOs.
What Is a CIO?
Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) drive innovation and digital transformation. CIOs are responsible for digital technology that supports enterprise goals and pushing forward the overall innovative vision of the company. Over the last few decades, it became clear that just having staff that understood business and staff that understood IT wasn’t enough. You also need someone with a creative vision. You need someone who can see the value of nascent technology and push your company to the next level.
What Responsibilities Does the CIO Have?
- Developing an innovation strategy by talking to key stakeholders and people around the business.
- Oversee innovations in progress.
- Develop an innovation culture in the business so there’s a free flow of ideas.
- Evaluating risk and reward and ROI when it comes to innovation.
- Analyzing the competition and recognizing opportunities for growth.
- Creating an innovation roadmap.
- Collaborating with key teams and building strong relationships.
- Take a solution-based approach to long-standing or emerging business problems.
- Develop cutting edge ideas to set you apart from the competition.
- Invest in innovative technology and tools.
7 Things You Should Look for When Hiring a CIO (Chief Innovation Officer)
If you’re a talent acquisition specialist, Director, Co-founder, or CEO who wants to hire a CIO, then you need to know what to look for. Hiring high ranking staff can often be a challenge, especially in a field focused on creativity and innovation.
You’ll notice from looking at the responsibilities section that most CIO tasks are somewhat vague. It’s clear what you want from a CIO, but how does the CIO prove their competency in this area? How can you ensure that you’re hiring the right CIO for your business? Here we’re going to look at the 7 things you should look for when hiring a CIO.
1. Strong Background in Technology
We’re living in the digital era, and this means innovations in the tech space are critical for your business to thrive. Your CIO must have a strong background in technology, whether that means they have worked on IT projects, or have been instrumental in the adoption of new technologies in their previous employment. It’s a good idea to learn about emerging technologies for business and ask the interviewee what they think about these technologies. They should speak about technology with authority and have clearly defined views about the role these technologies will have in our future.
You should ask what they think about these topics and ask further questions to determine their knowledge level:
- Can you give a simple definition of AI?
- What are the benefits of AI adoption? What value does it bring to businesses?
- Can you give practical examples of where AI has improved our lives or businesses?
- What will AI look like in the future? Will it replace all of our jobs?
- How would you implement AI solutions? How long would this take?
- What skills do you think are important for implementing AI?
The purpose of these questions is to get a deep understanding of what the interviewee knows about AI. You want to make sure that they haven’t just read a textbook, but that they truly understand the implications of AI for business and our daily lives. Can they abstractly think of AI?
- What are some real-world examples of machine learning?
- Will machine learning be everywhere in the future?
- How important is data collection and analysis? How do you handle challenges around unclean or corrupted data?
- What are the biggest challenges of machine learning?
They don’t have to be experts in the finer details of machine learning but they do need a robust understanding of the concepts.
Robotics and Automation
- What are the biggest use cases of automation?
- What areas of the business should be automated first?
- How big of a role will automation play in the future of business?
- How can blockchain be used in business?
- Are they any areas of business that blockchain technology would improve or transform?
Blockchain has been getting a lot of buzz recently. The key here is to see if they understand blockchain well enough to envisage it’s potential in a business setting. This can tell you whether they are passionate about emerging technology.
2. Diverse Mindset
Over the last decade, there’s been an increased focus on diversity. What people tend to miss is that it’s not about meeting quotas, but getting a diverse set of ideas. A diverse set of experiences and a diverse mindset makes you better equipped at problem-solving, and this is especially true for unique problems. In psychology, there’s a term called prospective blindness. This is where you are blind to your own blind spots. We also tend to hire people who are just like us. This isn’t inherently bad, but it can lead to you perpetually missing blindspots.
Experts now think prospective blindness played a key role in the CIA’s failure to stop the 9/11 attacks before they happened. The CIA at the time was full of the world’s leading intelligence experts, but the group was largely homogenous. They had a huge blind spot when it came to address the problem. One senior official said “[The CIA] simply couldn’t square the idea of putting resources into finding out more about Bin Laden and al-Qaeda given that the guy lived in a cave. To them, he was the essence of backwardness.”
Diversity of thought is key for creativity and innovation. To see if someone has diversity of thought, ask them questions that require them to look outside themselves. You can also put a spin on classic questions to eliminate any rehearsed answers.
- How will AI and automation support customers with a disability?
- What was your best day at work in the last year? (this will help you uncover their strengths)
The CIO must be able to communicate and collaborate with people around the business. They must be a unifying force for good. This is how you get the free flowing of ideas needed to make meaningful change and also how you get everyone on board with the new project. You can ask:
- What actions make a team successful?
- Do you feel more energized by working alone or with others?
Team working is critical, but your CIO must be able to drive decisions and action new ideas. This requires leadership properties. You can ask:
- As a leader, who do you take inspiration from? (this will tell you what traits they admire).
- How do you inspire creative thinking in the workforce?
- What are the most important leadership values to you?
5. A Nuanced View of Innovation
Innovation isn’t just about big changes, it can also be about small incremental changes. Big ideas are great, but sometimes you can change the way the business works with smaller policy changes. Ask questions to see if they have a nuanced view of innovation or whether they are just about the big ideas.
6. Great Listening Skills
You want someone who can run with their own ideas, but not at the cost of the business. You need the business to buy into their ideas and get behind the CIO. Listening skills are key here. Be wary of interviewees who ramble or interrupt you. You can ask:
- How do you deal with people who struggle to communicate effectively?
- What direct questions do you ask to get a diverse set of ideas?
- How do you address people who deliberately give vague or unclear answers?
You want a CIO who will take the most efficient approach to implementing change. Efficiency isn’t just for the tools they bring into the business, but also in their approach to their work. Ask about their approach to implementing change. You’re looking for it to be methodical and timely.