The New Chiefs of Disruption: What Is A Chief Disruption Officer?

Chief Disruption Officer

Today, simply being innovative is not enough. To retain competitive advantage in the ever-changing marketplace, companies must continually disrupt the market and take giant leaps forward at every opportunity.

With that goal in mind, enterprises have invited a new chief to town — the Chief Disruption Officer.

As a result of this need to revolutionize time and time again, companies realized that they need a person within their ecosystem whose role is to continuously seek, integrate and scale disruptive solutions.

So what does the CDO do, who needs one and how will the role evolve? Let’s check it out.

Not the Same as the Chief Innovation Officer

Corporate innovation is difficult for enterprises to implement and to galvanize support for, so many companies brought on Chief Innovation Officers (CIO) to reduce hostile attitudes toward new processes and facilitate their adoption.

As such, the role of the CIO evolved into one that is responsible for seeking out new innovative ideas and introducing and implementing them at a company level.

“Innovation sounds like ideas. Disruption sounds like action.” (Forbes) Click To Tweet

CIOs can be categorized as reactive – they identify opportunities for innovation and figuring out the best way to seize that opportunity. CDOs, on the other hand, are proactive. Disruption is expected in many industries, and so enterprises have had to adjust their outlook and search for a C-level position whose role is to act – not only react – to the market.

Contrary to the CIO, the role of the Chief Disruption Officer is to do just what the name implies – disrupt. While the CIO brings in innovation, it does not, by definition, have to be disruptive.

Where the CIO innovates within the confines of their industry and environment, the CDO of a company is expected to exceed those confines and bring in technology that is truly game-changing in nature for their industry and for their consumers.

Who needs a Chief Disruption Officer?

While disruption was once reserved for game-changing startups, today enterprises realize that to retain market share, they need to be as innovative as startups (if not more so).

Sometimes this means working with startups to bring in disruptive technologies, and other times this means breeding disruption from within.

Therefore, the quick answer to the question, “Who needs a Chief Disruption Officer?” is: everyone. Enterprises looking to challenge the market and provide an optimal environment for disruptive technologies need a CDO to source and oversee the implementation of the change.

According to a PwC study, 19% of the 2,500 largest companies in the world have already filled the role of the Chief Disruption Officer, and most of them have only done so in the past two years, showing a clear shift in the way enterprises approach disruption.

Encouraging Disruption at a Corporate Level

While disruption is a great goal, attaining it often requires encountering discomfort and difficulties. As a result, the role of the CDO is greatly challenged and must be encouraged from a higher level within the organization in order to succeed.

From within the corporate ecosystem, many CDOs face difficulties orchestrating strategic planning in a way that will encourage adoption of disruptive innovations. Disruption at its core requires challenging the status quo, and many legacy enterprises hesitate to take drastic change.

Disruption at its core requires challenging the status quo. Click To Tweet

As a result, many CDOs may find themselves fighting to promote change within their ecosystem. However, embracing disruption has been proven to generate long term value for companies and their stakeholders, and as a result many companies are giving the role of CDO a chance.

The Future Role of the Chief Disruption Officer

As more and more companies recognize the value of internal disruption, the need for CDOs will grow across all verticals.

While some industries like FinTech and InsurTech are more accepting of disruption than others, many other industries are on the cusp of true disruption, and those enterprises that will have corporate innovation policies that encourage disruptive technologies will likely reap the largest rewards.

Enterprises that do not embrace disruption and facilitate the role of the Chief Disruption Officer within their company risk finding themselves on our list of giants who have fallen.

Learn about the role Chief Innovation Officers play in enterprises.


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