What the Heck is a Chief Innovation Officer?

Oct-16-2011 by
An Interview with Josh Yang (OD), Chief Innovation Officer

A few months ago, Josh Yang sold his furniture and turned in his SFP lease.

Josh Yang, CIO

Josh Yang (HBS 2012), CIO

After landing a summer internship at a San Francisco-based mobile apps startup called Pulse, Yang was convinced that he would defer his second year of business school to continue on full time.

However, just before starting at Pulse in June, he had a change of heart, “went with [his] gut”, and decided to finish up at HBS, hoping to encourage, facilitate, and improve a growing movement at HBS. The Startup Tribe, the Minimum Viable Product Fund, the Entrepreneurship club, and Entrepreneurs in Residence, are just some of the resources that HBS students have at their disposal.

This is the first year that the Student Association has established a Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) position, and one of Yang’s key responsibilities is to define the role for future CIOs, balancing the need for cooperation while supporting students who are already helping to foster the entrepreneurial spirit here at HBS. Yang’s goal is to help not just those who want to found or join startups, but also those who want to disrupt old industries within the contexts of large organizations. Yang said, “There’s something that I want HBS to be for students, and if I could be a part of that, that would be really neat.”

Yang’s first item on his to-do list is to highlight entrepreneurship and innovation on campus, with the hope that students will hear about interesting startups first from the student body before they read about them in the Wall Street Journal. He hopes to leverage the existing entrepreneurship community at HBS as well as The Harbus to show HBS and the outside world that entrepreneurship at HBS is serious business.

The new CIO’s second to-do is to make the procedural stages of entrepreneurship easy. According to Yang, “There are all these wonderful resources for someone who wants to do things entrepreneurial.” Josh hopes to make these resources more available by creating a single destination online where students can learn about all the opportunities and resources not just at HBS, but in Harvard as well as the larger Boston community.

His third to-do is to serve as a liaison to the i-Lab as it evolves. Students can use him as a resource to better understand the purpose of the i-Lab as well as the resources that it can provide.

Yang’s job is challenging, and he has a series of hurdles to overcome, the highest of which is well understood by the HBS community: time. “How do you get people who don’t have time to spend time thinking about how to work together?” The second problem is continuity, and how to ensure that changes and initiatives this year are not lost later on.

Though these are challenging problems, Yang has the benefit of having a relatively clean slate to work with. We at The Harbus look forward to seeing what he can do.

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One thought on “What the Heck is a Chief Innovation Officer?

  1. Dave

    “The second problem is continuity, and how to ensure that changes and initiatives this year are not lost later on.” – In our organization, leadership teams give importance and show commitment toward innovation through reward and accountability. How I saw it work: Establishing goals and alignments is key and Innovation needs to be integrated in the workplace. This way everyone is aware and driven to contribute positively.

    I understand how this is a difficult task – especially the role details for different industries. On the other hand, it’s pretty exciting to establish something new.

    cheers!
    -D

    Reply