My posts on the Chief Entrepreneur and the follow up org chart generated an incredible response from our readers and community. In this post, I wanted to highlight and respond to some of the feedback that resulted from the online chatter.
If you haven’t had a chance to catch up on the discussion, here’s a link to a hypothetical job description I wrote for a Chief Entrepreneur. In this post I quickly outline who works for the Chief Entrepreneur. Both posts provoked a great debate on how companies can build a space for innovation alongside their existing business structure. Here's the original org chart:
One of the first pieces of feedback came from Danone Chairman Franck Riboud. We had lunch together and I had a chance to show Riboud the org chart I had developed. Riboud told me that he prefers seeing the two roles consolidated in one person, but admitted that it’s incredibly hard to find that candidate.
I sifted through many tweets and picked out some other opinions:
It’s already hard enough to imagine a second position beside the CEO at the same level. You can’t just add more--Chief Risk Officer or other, you’ll just have a mess. Though managing the risk of new ventures is extremely important, there’s no chance you’re going to have them sharing power with the CEO. Risk is a function, it’s not the business itself. Risk is an aspect of a business that needs to be managed, but it’s not THE business.
This is a very good addition. The whole goal of the space for the future is about experimentation and learning. It’s important to make sure that these experiments are being executed well, and that the learnings, findings, and knowledge are properly organized.
In the org chart, the Chief Risk Officer manages the risk of experiments, the Chief Portfolio Officer ensures diversity in experiments, and the Chief Learning Officer will be accountable for what the experiments taught the company, and maximizes on the findings.
But the Chief Learning Officer could be confused with training and recruitment--a HR function. So what if we labelled this role more as an innovation accountant? This makes it clear that the people responsible for talent, management, and recruitment are the Chief Entrepreneur and his or her Chief Venture Capitalist.
This is a role that’s important on both sides of the org chart. If you look at the VCs who came to silicon valley early on, the early ones quickly brought designers on board (John Maeda now comes to mind). It shows how important design is in this space of creating new stuff. I do believe they deserve a seat at the table.
It really is hard to put in place. And this goes back to my conversation with Riboud at Danone. The question is: can it be realistic to have one person own this role?
Won’t this structure just create another bloated top-down hierarchy?
We don’t want to create more managers, we just have to set the stage from the top.
The structure I’ve suggested is manageable because the space requires its own skills and culture. It’s not a separate organization--it’s a dual operating system that works in tandem (as coined by John Kotter). The innovation space under the Chief Entrepreneur is so different that you need a different set of people to operate it.
These people already exist in companies today, they’re just hidden somewhere in the basement. The problem is that these talented people have no power to really put a new culture in place.