Chief Innovation Officer: There's a Certificate for That

Guest Post By Brett Trusko

Editor’s Note: This post is excerpted from the May/June issue of the CIMS Innovation Management Report. In it, Brett Trusko–assistant professor at Texas A&M University and president of the International Association of Innovation Professionals—explains why being a Chief Innovation Officer may be hazardous to your health.

What do Medicine Man, Oracle, Jester, and Rainmaker have in common? Well, once upon a time, they were the riskiest jobs. If the King didn’t get well; if the Oracle sent him into a losing battle; if the Jester didn’t make him laugh; or the Rainmaker didn’t make it rain; then they all stood a chance of head-separation syndrome.

Brett Trusko

Once these job titles became professions such as physician, strategist, stand-up comic, and sales person (or weather forecaster), they became a lot safer. The primary reason for this was that we gained knowledge, understanding, and a sense of what was possible—and impossible. In short, these previously risky jobs became professions. In other words, we learned how to do each of these in a consistent and predictable way.

This brings me to the current most risky job: Chief Innovation Officer (CINO). If you consider that most people cannot even define innovation, never mind all the tools and techniques required to perform as an innovation expert, is it really that far-fetched to believe that in a few short years your CINO will be out of a job?

This is why we—mostly the editorial board of our academic journal, the International Journal of Innovation Science—founded the International Association of Innovation Professionals (IAOIP). Recognizing that innovation couldn’t progress to a profession without an agreed-upon Body of Knowledge (BoK) that recognized the science of innovation, we set out four years ago to develop a catalog of innovation skills and capabilities as well as certifications to demonstrate mastery of that “Body of Knowledge.”

To do so, we started a not-for-profit dedicated to the open and democratic development of a BoK that was transparent and followed the guidelines of the ISO 17024:2003 Conformity Assessment – General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons. Simply stated, this conformity assessment requires organizations to be inexpensive, accessible by all and oriented toward education, as opposed to training.

Fundamentally, the conformity assessment attempts to avoid the real or apparent conflicts of interest that permeate the innovation certification landscape of today. As a test, go to your Internet browser and search for innovation certification, and you will find dozens of organizations (for profit and not-for-profit) that will sell you a handbook, train you, and deliver your certificate for a few thousand dollars.

The issue with most of these organizations, while all well-meaning, is that the development of the material is done by unknown experts behind closed doors, and they make a lot of money training. While I am sure what they are delivering is very good material, the inherent conflict of interest in developing material, training on it, and delivering a certificate is fraught with conflict-of-interest problems.

After all, we believe that until the community accepts the body of knowledge, it is just someone’s opinion, and this creates a real problem long-term for the profession. Imagine if physicians could be declared competent by the guy down the street who charged $10,000. Innovation will have problems being seen as professional and will find it difficult to move forward without an independent body to develop and certify individuals.

Addressing the Problem

We organized working groups to create the base of advanced innovation certification requirements and assure that our certified members and organizations are global leaders in practicing and managing innovation.

These groups are voluntary and consist of between 29 and 60 members who consider themselves competent in the subject matter. The specific tasks of the working groups are to develop the body of knowledge; vote on that body of knowledge; develop certification exams for that content area; and to maintain the body of knowledge in that area. The exams in place at the time of this writing are:

Certified Innovation Professionals

Certified Management of Innovation

Certified Design Thinking

Certified Tools and Techniques

Additional certifications will be available in eight other topics.

The entry exams (manager and professional) are four hours and 150 questions. The remaining exams will all be one hour and 50 questions. Although this does not sound like sufficient time to review all the tools and techniques, (1,500 pages of study material) there are exam questions from each tool.

The exam randomizes the questions from a large database, which means that no two people will get the same exam and if the individual taking the exam feels they can skip any tool, they do so at their own peril.

After completing the innovation professional exam and the additional ten exams, our members will be able to complete a project that will be evaluated by an independent panel. This procedure of evaluation is the same if one wanted to be recognized as a certified Chief Innovation Officer.

Study material is available as a download (study guides) from the IAOIP site. Additionally, the study guides and body of knowledge contain material from many sources which are either available from the web site or other locations such as Amazon.

An Innovation Community

Today, the IAOIP is approaching its fourth anniversary and continues to follow the edicts under which we were founded. Better than that, we have also built a great community. To date, we have developed five of our planned twelve certification exams.

From the tools and techniques section alone, three 600-page books have been published. We have grown from five members when we opened the web site to almost 900 today, and we were hopeful that we will make it to 1,000 members before our fourth anniversary in April 2017.

Working groups are churning out new content for the body of knowledge and chapters are forming all over the world. Members come from 47 countries and we have formed six chapters within those countries. We also have a jobs board that nearly always has over 600 innovation-related jobs from throughout the world.

The IAOIP has several membership levels and offers free webinars and access to the International Journal of Innovation Science to full-paying members. These continuing education opportunities are critical to the mission of the organization as we recognize that lifelong learning is as, or more, important than the initial certification. For this reason, we currently aim to produce a webinar monthly this year and more frequently in the coming years.

Innovators Invited

One consistent message I deliver in my speaking engagements is that you can buy 1,000 books on how to start a company, but there are few books on starting a not-for-profit. There is no stock to sell and nothing to offer investors (of course we have no investors). The only thing we have to sell is the promise of a better world, where we are a part of improving the lot of mankind by promoting innovation to every human in every corner of the world. We invite you to join us in our journey at

If you are currently a CINO, or aspire to become one, consider an IAOIP certified professional when hiring. When your CEO challenges the speed at which you transform your company, you will have qualified professionals to lean on. Even better, your support of the IAOIP will help us develop innovation professionals and elevate your standing as a professional.

CIMS is a media partner of IAOIP. To stay on top of innovation-related research and news, subscribe to the Innovation Management Report today.

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