Fostering innovation is, typically, a buzzword which rarely gets more than a cursory mention at a meeting between executives of a company. More often than not, there are half-hearted attempts at perhaps speeding up certain processes or having more meetings where ideas can be suggested to the group.
Make it More than a Word
But when Annabelle Bexiga, CIO of financial services firm TIAA-CREF took it upon herself to foster innovation, it was more than a piece of jargon. In her mind, it would take more than a single team dedicated to innovation: it would take the whole organization. Through town hall like meetings, Bexiga promoted those in the company who were doing “something cool” and created IT Expos where people could show off projects they were proud of. But that isn’t to say that great ideas just happen. Sometimes it takes an extra push to move employees to a great solution, as was the case with a recent innovation:
One of our IT innovations is our Unified Desktop application. Our client-facing teams used to have to log in to many different systems to answer clients' questions; now, they use a wiki-like interface to find the relevant information. The team started by thinking about what the experience should be and worked backward from there, instead of thinking about what the problem was and trying to solve it.
Instead of seeing a bunch of disconnected systems and trying to integrate them–which would have resulted in a long and expensive project–they thought about how things should, and do, work in other contexts, such as the consumer experience. That led to the wiki interface, and they used open-source technologies to create it cost effectively and quickly. So in one short year, we've created something with a significant business impact that can be replicated broadly.
Read the full article here to learn how one CIO was able to create true innovation in her organization: