Dear CEO: Four Aspects of Innovation Where We Need Your Help


In a market of constant disruption, we know you have a lot on your plate. As your innovation leaders and teams, we are hoping that you share our view that this is a time to lean into innovation as opposed to putting it on the back burner.

CEOs and innovation leaders have the opportunity to align strategy and purpose with the power of people and ideas. An innovative culture will help our organization continuously adapt and evolve in order to create new products, services, and business models that better meet customer needs and help us leap-frog competitors that are slower to embrace change. Given the rapidly changing business landscape, this is a time when it is more important than ever to use innovation to help us stay relevant with a continuous stream of new ideas and solutions that meet emerging challenges.

Brian Miske, National Ignition Leader

To make this happen, we need you. Without your vision, guidance, and support, we risk innovating for the sake of innovating — not to create real strategic value and growth, now and in the future. 

This letter presents four specific areas where we believe your leadership and collaboration can help us seize the opportunities of innovation:

Set the strategy and tone: We need your visionary leadership to serve as a compass for our innovation initiatives and help ensure they are aligned with the business strategy and crucial business objectives. When you, as CEO, outwardly demonstrate that innovation is a priority, it serves as a strong motivator for others. As such, our innovation work will benefit from your clear and consistent communication to all stakeholders — including employees, customers, shareholders, and partners — about the vision, goals, progress, and impact of innovation programs.

Support a culture of innovation: Fostering a culture that values innovation and empowers the workforce to take risks is crucial to staying relevant and getting ahead. While this is a joint effort, your encouragement to people throughout the organization to embrace change, take chances, prioritize learning and experimentation, and collaborate across levels and functions, will go a long way toward surfacing the best ideas, bringing them to life, and moving innovation forward. You can also support us by providing our employees with the flexibility and autonomy they need to be creative and drive innovation, even if it means some planned time away from their day jobs.

Your encouragement to people throughout the organization to embrace change, take chances, prioritize learning and experimentation, and collaborate across levels and functions, will go a long way toward surfacing the best ideas, bringing them to life, and moving innovation forward.

Set us up for success: It is critical to establish an intentional structure and processes to consistently turn ideas into tangible innovations that add value to the business. We ask that you allocate sufficient resources, including funding, staffing, and the latest tools and technologies, to ensure innovators are armed to succeed. Our people would benefit greatly from training and development opportunities that proffer new skills and knowledge and help our teams stay current on the latest technologies and innovation trends. Finally, our research tells us that creating incentives — such as monetary rewards and formal recognition — motivate and engage the whole organization to go the extra mile on innovation initiatives.

Measure progress and foster accountability: Performance is a critical component of any innovation program. You can help us measure outcomes, such as ROI, time-to-market, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and market share. Making data-driven decisions in our innovation planning and execution will help us not only adjust and improve as needed, but also drive accountability. Equally critical, it will help ensure that innovation initiatives are delivering meaningful value to the organization. As the head of our company, your participation in regularly reviewing and measuring progress towards innovation goals will ensure that our efforts lead to the most impactful outcomes. 

Some final thoughts:

We truly believe your involvement will leverage the power of our people and possibilities in these areas, and we will take our company’s innovation to new heights. But please don’t view this as just another in a long list of demands! 

First, rest assured: We are not asking for your involvement in everything that falls within the innovation realm! The last thing we want is to bog you down in the details of daily innovation operations and distract you from your other strategic responsibilities. In fact, autonomy and creativity within the innovation team is essential to our work, while day-to-day scrutiny tends to stifle creativity and hinder progress. While we appreciate your participation where it matters most, we also thank you for allowing us the necessary space to execute innovation programs end-to-end. 

Second, we want to emphasize that we have a wide spectrum of diverse knowledge and experience on the innovation team, as well as in other areas of the organization. We don’t expect you to make decisions that are outside of your own area of expertise. It is our job to drive innovation based on grounded facts and sound judgment. In fact, this is where we, as innovators, thrive!  

Finally, by lending your leadership and support to our innovation efforts, you are not just helping us. You are helping everyone touched by our company’s products, services, and business model. By collaborating on aspects of innovation where you can make a significant impact, we can align our innovation initiatives with the overall goals and direction that you, as CEO, have set for our company. Together, we can use innovation to shape a better future for our business, our stakeholders, our customers, and our communities.


Your fearless, loyal innovation team

Brian Miske serves as the National Ignition Leader, where he leads the firm’s strategy to deliver differentiated, innovative client experiences through our KPMG Ignition Centers. A transformational leader and speaker, he has extensive experience helping create market-leading, profitable organizations across global geographies. Brian and his team in the Innovation Lab help clients navigate an increasingly complex and rapidly changing environment by providing insights on signals of change and applying design thinking for business model innovation.