An Action Plan for a New CTO: Discovering and Nurturing Innovation Hotspots within a Corporate Environment, by Steve Blank

Tips for a Newly Hired Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in a Large Company

As the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of a large company, your role is crucial in ensuring that the company keeps up with new technologies and competitors. However, it can be challenging to find and grow the islands of innovation within the organization. In this article, we give you some tips on how to avoid wasting your first six months thinking you’re making progress when the status quo is working to keep you at bay.

Assess The Organization

Upon starting, it’s important to assess the company culture and identify the existing organizational islands of innovation that are already delivering and help them scale. The question to ponder over is how the CTO can quickly infiltrate a large, complex company of that size, get wins on the board and get a coalition working.

Create A Map Of Activities

Almost every division and function will be building groups for innovation, incubation, and technology scouting. Thus, creating a map of all these activities will help identify areas that require more attention to create a common language and tools for innovation around rapid acceleration of existing mission and delivery.

Create An Innovation Pipeline

Innovation and execution are different processes, people, and culture, but they need to respect and depend on each other. The CTO’s role is to create an innovation pipeline from problem to deployment and get it adopted at scale, which involves building innovation processes in parallel to those for execution.

Invest In Continually Delivering Products And Services

The ultimate goal is to not only identify areas that require improvement but also making permanent the delivering of products and services at speed with a written innovation doctrine and policy. One should also instrument the process with metrics and diagnostics to ensure that innovation is continually at the forefront of the organization’s operations.

Find The Real Islands Of Innovation

While it’s important to get to know the existing innovation heroes and rebels, the best way to find the real islands of innovation is getting out of the office and spending time where the company’s products and services are being developed and delivered. It’s likely that most innovative groups are not only talking about innovation but are also the ones delivering innovative solutions to customer needs.


As a newly hired CTO, it’s important to assess the company culture and identify the existing organizational islands of innovation that are already delivering. The key is to create a common process, language and tools for innovation and make them permanent with a written innovation doctrine, policy, and metrics that shift the company culture towards innovation.

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