Chief Strategy Officer Summit NY 2018 Recap

Between Dec. 6th and 7th, over 200 Strategy, Innovation and Marketing leaders from across the globe gathered in New York City for the Fall 2018, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Innovation Officer Summit. The theme of the event was “Learn to thrive in uncertain times”. This theme resonated with speakers, panels and in general conversations among attendees – strategy is fluid and cannot be routine but rather it must constantly evolve at a rapid pace to meet todays business needs.

From the sphere of strategic innovation, Fletcher/CSI drew on five areas of focus, including:

Building a Brand Strategy: Too often existing market leaders and new entrants bring brands to market with the best intentions but do not effectively position the brand for success. Factors such as price, channel, messaging, competition and more all come into play. From the perspective of a branding consultant, these pitfalls and can be overcome with four key steps.

  1. Understand your brand’s DNA– Carve out a niche and ensure your brand is placed correctly by clearly defining what purpose your brand will serve and the story you want it to tell customers
  2. Assess how unique your brand is– Assess your competitors’ offerings, understand how unique your brand is, and determine what points of emphasis to focus on in future messaging
  3. Identify where your brand’s customers reside– By focusing launch, promotional and communication efforts at the right sub-segment of customers a new brand can avoid wasted time and money through more effective target marketing
  4. Create communication that resonates with your consumers– Understanding where your customers reside and how to communicate with them will allow you to narrow your message into specific channels, medias or via influencers who resonate with them

Building an Innovation Strategy: In a session from leading innovation managers, it was noted that most innovation is not a surprise, and the key to moving from evolutionary innovation to revolutionary innovation is applying a different lens to the process.  The new lens is not about centralization or decentralization of the innovation unit, it is creating a culture of innovation which pervades across the company.

One aspect of this move is that most innovation groups have evolved to a multi-source structure which looks both inside and outside the company. Examples of this movement are the growing number of innovation partners companies use. In this process, suppliers specialized in their area make incremental improvements, which ripple up the value chain to produce innovation in many different areas.

Tracking this innovation requires looking throughout the value chain for any changes. These changes may not directly apply to one product, but they do give a more complete assessment of what will be developed.

Team Building Strategy: The best strategy and products in the world will struggle to find success if a cohesive team is not implementing and supporting them in the background. In a panel discussion, shared lessons learned and best practices in sourcing talent, training, engaging and retaining talent were explored:

  • Recruitment: By focusing more on company culture and less on searching for the perfect fit in terms of skills is a key to successful recruitment. Giving interviewees a clear understanding of the team they would work with, of management expectations, and of the work life balance will ensure the new team member fits in with the team and avoids long-run discontent
  • Training: Using an 80/20 training strategy that integrates training throughout the year insures that there is a common thread and understanding. This approach creates an expectation that an employee complete training via mentorship, shadowing, or educational courses during work hours. This training should cover no more than 20% of time, but shows an investment in the employee and does not force them to train outside of work hours
  • Engagement: Constantly challenging employees is key and employing the 50/50 rule is another tool. The 50/50 rule is a structure in which 50% of an employee’s time is spent on existing skills they possess and the other 50% must be dedicated to working on new projects or areas of interest to ensure the employee stays focused and is constantly learning
  • Retention: Flexibility and accessibility were noted as the leading retention tools by many of the panelist. This approach allows work hour diversity in non-customer facing roles and emphasizes telecommuting options where appropriate. At the same time, management accessibility fostered a sense that management can be reached at any time, even to meet remote employees for face to face meetings, ensuring the comradery that was instilled remains

Counterpoint on Innovation as a Special Function: In a novel perspective on innovation a presenter discussed the role of innovation and if it should be treated as a specialized unit. The presenter pointed out that the role of any business is to stay ahead of competitors, develop new products that meet changing market demands, and generate profits. This perspective suggests that innovation is a core function of all parts of the business and not really an isolated group within the company. The suggestion is that by treating innovation as outside the role of normal business operations, a barrier is created between the company’s customer facing units and the innovation team.

The presenter suggested that the best approach is to instill innovation throughout the company, and to have some centralized coordination unit that collates the innovation generated and prioritizes it based on company needs.

Transformational Strategy: Even the world’s most established brands suffer from changing customer preferences, demographics, employee needs, and innovative technological disruption. One presenter reviewed steps taken to establish a new modern strategy that is more inclusive and poised to grow today. In this session, key themes were:

  • Understand your organization: This emphasized the importance of knowing what your key stakeholders internally think you are vs. what customers think you are. Often there is disconnect, which presents strategy leaders an opportunity to bridge the gap
  • Test the impact of your strategy: Setting a strategy and implementing it without stepping back to test the impact is not advised. Pilot rollouts or simulated scenarios serve as an opportunity to understand the response employees or customers may have
  • Focus only on the Issues you control: Attempting to find solutions to organizational or marketplace issues that your brand does not have control over is ill-advised. The effort may backfire or lead to wasted time and resources

Fletcher/CSI, Inc. works with clients to help develop strategies that incorporate competitive insight to produce informed decisions. We support strategy and innovation decision makers by bringing details on competitor actions and how those actions will impact market dynamics. To learn more about our services, including Scenario Planning, Competitive Landscapes, and Innovation Roadmaps, or other Competitive Insights, please contact us at

Patrick Sturgeon, VP Sales Consumer & Industrial Goods