Even with the amount of power and sway that they have, CIOs are as concerned with how employees and coworkers see them as someone in an entry level position is. This type of thinking can greatly influence their decision making processes. Unfortunately, this can mean that innovation can take a back seat to business tactics. Mike Altendorf of CIO UK reminds us that “CIOs must not be seen as barriers to innovation.” However, there is a sad difference between what we want from CIOs and what they are truly able to deliver based upon how they are perceived. It is, unfortunately, a truly vicious cycle. Altendorf attempts to offer some explanation as to why CIOs care more about perception than they do about innovation:
'Perception is truth' as some-time rock guitarist and Republican political advisor Lee Atwater once said. If that's true then from what I have heard CIOs need to start changing their perceptions. What I have heard over and over again from senior marketers, business strategists and business development leaders is that CIOs are all too often seen as a barrier to innovation. In fact the IT department in general is an organisation that is seen as something to get around, negotiated with and, if at all possible, avoided.
The truth is, the role of the CIO has transformed greatly from the time if its inception, according to Altendorf. CIOs were once at the forefront of innovation and development, but now they rest in a management type position that rarely sees any change. Basically, CIOs have become afraid to say “yes” no new ideas for fear that they may stir the pot too much.
Altendorf acknowledges that it is easy to see where this fear of change is coming from. There have been so many instances of CIOs promising something big and then not being able to deliver. When that happens, the CIO becomes afraid of repeating mistakes. As Altendorf says, “The result is that all too often when innovation is happening within a business the input of the CIO is minimal at best.”
The truth is, a CIO must be at the forefront of innovation regardless of how he or she may be perceived. As Altendorf notes, the word “information” is in the title of the position, therefore CIOs must use the information they have to create the most innovation possible for their company. The incentive for CIOs to create innovation despite how they may be perceived is in how they will be remembered. It may seem nice to be remembered for not making any missteps, but then you run the risk of being remembered for not accomplishing much of anything. It is, of course, a fine line to walk, but a difficult job requires one to make difficult decisions. The position of a CIO can become obsolete if every CIO is constantly avoiding those hard choices in order to save face. It is important to remember that the reward for creating innovation can in fact be greater than the risk.