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Position Highlight: Chief Digital and Disruption Officer

December 2018
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How this executive role is changing the C-suite

Disruption is a type of innovation that creates a new market and eventually overtakes existing solutions. Historically, disruptors have sprung unexpectedly into markets, impacting the way existing companies do business. Well known disruptors like Netflix have even forced their original competitors into extinction.

Many of today’s business leaders are rightfully concerned that something similar could happen to their organizations. But how can they plan to compete with something unexpected? Enter: The Chief Digital and Disruption Officer (CDDO).

What are the responsibilities of a CDDO?
Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are responsible for the technology that supports their organization’s unique business objectives. Though the CIO may propose new technology investments and strategies, their role differs from the CDDO in a few key ways. Most notably, the CDDO has the responsibility to turn the status quo on its head. Disruption moves against the established course, creating new opportunities that others have not yet considered.

Some organizational stakeholders may worry that the CDDO position takes all of the most interesting responsibilities away from the CIO, but this isn’t the case. At Stanton Chase, we talk to hundreds of CIOs every day and they tell us that Disruption Officers expand their scope beyond the organization they work for and peer into adjacent industries for inspiration.

One CDDO of a leading industrial company asserted that you have to spend about two-thirds of your time outside of your comfort zone, meaning outside of your industry. That way, you learn from what others are doing and find connection points. Then you can innovate through understanding what others are doing, and bring those concepts into your industry, and your company.

Self-disruption can be a scary concept for many business leaders. After all, if the status quo is currently in their organization’s favor, why change? It’s a question that’s being asked in more and more boardrooms across the globe. The challenge for CDDOs is to bring innovative disruptions to the table and build strategies for turning them into valuable opportunities.

What qualities should a CDDO possess?
To be effective, a CDDO needs experience managing change on a large scale. While some innovations may be customer-facing, internal change cannot be ignored. Disruption favors no particular process, and it can come from any direction. When disruptive strategies aim to evolve internal workflows, cultures and best practices, it takes a confident leader to steer the organization in the right direction.

Depending on the nature of the organization, the ideal CDDO may need a background in technology as well as marketing and sales. The CDDO needs to understand the potential that emerging technologies may have to disrupt the business for the better. CIO Magazine noted that Disruption Officers must be able to take a step back and look at how multiple technologies could work in tandem to provide a new source of value.

In other words, the CDDO needs to be a visionary – he or she needs to be able to see possibilities that others have either ignored or discounted. Furthermore, the CDDO needs to have the skills and experience to bring these far-reaching ideas to practically minded people and make a strong business case in favor of his or her ideas. It’s a tall order for anyone, and it takes a dedicated thought leader to perform this challenging work.

CDDO positions are relatively new and unknown. In a recent Stanton Chase Women & Leadership video, Virpy Richter, Managing Director at Conrad Electronic SE, explains how the family-owned business paved the way for a CDDO at her company.

The CDDO isn’t well understood by many organizations, which makes it notoriously difficult to hire for. Stanton Chase has been a leader in this space, helping organizations across the globe find the talent they need to uncover potentially disruptive and valuable solutions to some of the most pressing business challenges. To learn more, read more of our leadership insights today.

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