Four Steps For Success in Using a Fractional Chief Innovation Officer

Four Steps For Success in Using a Fractional Chief Innovation Officer

By Anthony Mills, Fractional CInO & CTO

You Must Have New Innovation In Order to Drive Top Line Growth

Your organization, just like every other organization out there, has to deliver new innovation and not just simply incremental innovation, but rather truly impactful innovation that’s capable of moving the needle.

Moreover, just like your competition, your organization really has to be able to do this over and over again, not stopping, if it is to get ahead and become the driving force in its markets. But if your organization is like many, it simply is not in a position to hire a full time Chief Innovation Officer, particularly one having the pedigree needed to drive such efforts successfully.

Enter the Fractional Chief Innovation Officeran individual you can justify and afford to invest in. A Fractional CInO brings to the table the knowledge, experience, and insight needed to get your organization aligned with all the activities required to succeed with new innovation.

There are four key steps you must undertake in order to properly retain and engage a Fractional CInO. 

Four Steps For Success in Using a Fractional Chief Innovation Officer

Step 1: Define Your Goals & Objectives

Decide up front what your goals and objectives are for engaging the Fractional CInO.

In particular, there are five “typical” objectives for retaining a Fractional CInO, and you will need to decide which of these is yours.

  1. Innovation Project: There’s a specific new innovation your organization needs to define, develop, launch, and scale, for which you’re looking for the leadership to drive that project.
  2. Innovation Strategy: You’re looking to develop a winning new Innovation Strategy for driving different forms of growth in your business over the short, medium, and long terms.
  3. Innovation Program: You’re looking to establish and operate a formal corporate innovation program in the business, so that it can sustain an ongoing pipeline of new innovation each year.
  4. Innovation Maintenance: You’re looking for an individual who can drive your existing corporate innovation program on an interim basis, until you identify a suitable long-term leader for it.
  5. A combination of any of the above.

Any of these purposes will define what success looks like for your Fractional CInO.

Step 2: Define the Organizational Relationships

This is far, far more crucial in the case of a Fractional CInO than for most other Fractional CxOs, because Innovation is such a relationship-intensive undertaking. It requires extensive persuasion and influence in the organization to give its initiatives a fair chance of survival against corporate immune responses that may be present in your organization trying to maintain its status quo, which is generally antithetical to being able to innovate effectively.

You must therefore define what this individual’s relationship will be with the rest of your C-suite, and what types and levels of authority, influence, and persuasion you’re going permit them to have within your Senior Leadership Team. While certain elements of trust and respect must of course be earned, if they go in without a hope of ever having the influence they will need, then you will in most cases only be setting them up for failure. Success demands having the right relationship with your SLT. Otherwise you should not engage a Fractional CInO, as you would be wasting their time and your money.

You must likewise define who will and will not report to this Fractional CInO. Reporting or not reporting can both work so long as they are given the authority they need to be able to drive certain changes and actions. Everyone involved has to know what these organizational relationships will be, so that they can operate accordingly. If staff are not to report to the Fractional CInO, then the Fractional CInO will need to have a close working relationship with all those to whom they do report.

Step 3: Define the Organizational Resources

Define what resources the Fractional CInO will have to work with. This includes staff, budgets, organizational skill sets, outside partners, suppliers, internal capabilities and capacities, your culture, and so on. Knowing this will allow the Fractional CInO to level-set their expectations and better develop their game plan for achieving your objectives under those conditions (or else inform you that your objectives may not be attainable given the resources you have).

Four Steps For Success in Using a Fractional Chief Innovation Officer

Step 4: Establish the Duration & Intensity

Based on the scope of what is involved in Step 1, estimate how long you will need to retain the Fractional CInO, and what portion of their time you will need them to commit to your organization in order to achieve the goals and objectives you’ve established.

Review these estimates with your prospective Fractional CInO to ensure they agree with your sense of how much time will be needed, or conversely, what can be accomplished in the amount of time that you wish to commit to. Always ensure that both sides are in full alignment on what can be accomplished under these conditions prior to starting, given the state and resources they’ll be starting with in your organization.

For this, you will need to be honest with yourself about your organization’s current level of innovation capability and maturity.  If you’re uncertain about this, have the prospective Fractional CInO conduct an innovation maturity assessment of the organization to find out.


The Takeaway

These are the four steps you must take in order to properly retain and engage a Fractional CInO, and to set them up for success in achieving your specific goals and objectives within the timeframe, and at the intensity level, that you’ve allocated. If you follow these four steps, then your chances of having a successful outcome will improve exponentially.


About the Author

Anthony Mills (CInP, CDTP, CInS, CCInO, PE) is a globally recognized authority on strategic innovation, corporate innovation, design thinking, customer experience, and future of work. He works with organizations of all sizes, in all industries and markets, as a Fractional Chief Innovation Officer to help them develop and implement the innovation strategies and programs they need, and likewise pursue the new innovations they require to ensure their market leadership and growth over the long term.

Anthony leads both Legacy Innovation Groupa world-leading strategic innovation consulting firm, and Global Innovation Institute, the world’s leading certification, accreditation, and membership organization in the field of business innovation. He is the author of numerous well-regarded books and articles on innovation.

Anthony has worked with client organizations across North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Learn more about Anthony at


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