Sparking Innovation with a Temporary Infusion of Specialized Executive Talent

The oft-repeated line, “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation” is usually attributed to the late, great Peter Drucker. Whether he or Czech author Milan Kundera said it first, Drucker amplified it in such a way that should make every CEO sit up and take notice: “Marketing and innovation produce results. All the rest are costs.”

The truth of this should ignite a fire to develop an innovation strategy for your business. In our latest article, Driving Corporate Innovation: The Strategic use of Interim Executives,  we interviewed Cerius executives about driving innovation using an interim executive strategy. Here are some of the ways that works:

  1. Objectivity. It doesn’t matter how objective you believe yourself to be about your company; you will never be as objective as someone coming in from the outside. That’s not a failing on your part. Your experiences are deposited in your mind like residue. They’re necessary, but they’re not objective.
  2. Expertise. Interim executives come from the right markets, with the right expertise. At Cerius, our interim executives come from a mix of small, medium, and large companies. Many of the companies on their resumes are household names. They’re not reinventing anything – they’re driving it.
  3. Experience. IEs not only have years of experience – they have executive experience. This means they know how to empower teams with attitude, data and processes that drive innovation.
  4. Fearlessness. This is not an irresponsible trait. Fearlessness combined with experience allow for calculations that you may not even know to entertain. It’s what allows our IEs to know that innovation can happen in any department: Finance, IT, Operations, Marketing, Sales, HR, and Engineering.
  5. Innovation is deliberate. You need to apply information and imagination to get something different from the same resources. One of our IEs used sociological research applied to different cultures to develop algorithms across an IT infrastructure. That process differentiated that company from its competitors.

In at least half of our executive placements, we send an executive from outside the client’s particular industry. It won’t be a polar opposite, but myopia can occur as much within an industry as it can within a company. Having that freshness of perspective is an innovation driver. It discards old, tired ideas, freeing up the team to get creative.

But innovation is not just for companies who feel they have gone stale. William Pollard said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

Consider this: Regardless of the great things your company has already done, they’re not as great as what it has not yet accomplished. Applying interim executives strategically can ignite the spark you need.


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