Death Match: Chief Growth Officer vs. Chief Disruption Officer

There’s an interesting trend in company job titles I’ve been observing recently, the number of large businesses who are hiring (or creating) Chief Growth Officers.

Growth is word which hangs in the air in Silicon Valley and start-up-ville, where growth is the key metric for businesses. The phrase Growth-Hacking was coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis of Dropbox marketing fame, and defines “a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of ‘How do I get customers for my product'” – using smart, lean and agile techniques to grow userbase without huge paid for marketing spend – what we’d probably call owner and earned in a media agency. Let’s get the largest possible number of people on our platform.

I worry that Growth as an objective points us in the wrong direction.

Growth, in my opinion, should be a metric or symptom of excellence, not an objective.

Focus on doing brilliant work, creating wonderful things, making people smile, and growth comes from that.

We constantly reference businesses who have remarkable growth, Amazon, Google, Uber, Airbnb, yet we use them as examples of disruption in the marketplace, because they have done something different, they have taken the status quo and broken it, to much success. Airbnb broke hotels. Uber broke taxis. We don’t applaud businesses who have huge market caps who are just growing within a category by eating up competition or eroding their margins and suppliers in the hunt for larger numbers.

We need more focus on experimentation and disruption, to discover potential areas of new opportunity, to understand what breaking things can do for our companies and our clients and ultimately people at the end (and most valuable part) of the chain, our customers, our consumers: our friends, our families, us.

You could argue the case for a Chief Disruption Officer then, a Chief Innovation Officer, a Chief Experimentation Officer (indeed, that’s my job), but it goes way further than that.

We cannot have an individual who is responsible for the disruption and innovation and doing things differently, but rather we need to foster cultures of creativity and challenging the status quo. The permission to try something, to question and break things, to go in a different direction needs to be given and supported to every individual within an organisation, and then, the role of the Chief Growth Officer is to look at how that small kernel of an idea can be scaled massively, to grow it from an actionable thought into something profitable and valuable for everyone, at speed.

Perhaps we need new job titles which focus on the support and growth of people and culture within organisations, from within which come the ideas that money is generated, rather than a focus on the money itself.

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