Govindarajan on the new innovation

William J. Holstein interviews Dartmouth professor Vijay Govindarajan for the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt:

Q. So would you say the chief executive has an important role in making breakthrough innovation possible?

A. A tremendously important role. I consider the C.E.O.’s role in the modern corporation to be building the capacity to continuously innovate in a breakthrough way (emphasis mine). The C.E.O. doesn’t create the strategy, but should be listening to the voices of people who are able to see the future. It is the role of the C.E.O. to spot and encourage them. Then, once an idea has promise, you must help build a separate organization around that person.


  1. … I’m confused; what else than “creating” strategies and taking strategic decisions on the corporate and competitive level (which clearly include innovation strategies) is the job of a C.E.O.? What’s your point, Victor?

  2. What Govindarajan is saying is that the CEO *doesn’t* create the strategy in many cases, probably because it’s too difficult for one person alone or for any type of CEO.

    *Building the capacity* for innovation could mean creating organizational structures, changing hiring and compensation policies, or simply giving the politically-needed permission to use different processes.

    Another way to say it is that sexy innovations are supported by a lot of relatively unsexy but necessary organizational changes.

  3. Hi Victor,

    happy new year and thanks for this! Seems to have been a quick shot from my side as well ;-) However this is a good opportunity to apply for the NYT login and read the full story …

    While I agree to Govindarajan’s view that the (modern) CEO should be the enabler, facilitator, listener, etc. it would interest me how many of these more EQ focused characters you will actually find among CEOs these days. I tend to assume that this (wished) empathy driven behaviour very often clashes with the (still) quite power-player oriented mindset (certainly driven by external requirements) of most CEOs. However … could this be the strategic space for the design driven CEO?

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