Why CIOs Must Have their Teams’ Backs in Risk-Taking

CIOs, having been terrorized into using cost-cutting measures during the recession, are still to a large extent cowering in the corners of the business world. No longer must technology leaders fly safely beneath the radar of innovation! In an article for The Enterprisers Project, GE’s Charlene Begley pleads with CIOs to turn with the tides, as digital disruption asserts its full presence in all aspects of enterprise.

Cultural U-Turn

To be strategic, the business of today must take every advantage of new technology, and that means taking on risk through IT. But as most CIOs are aware, getting IT to take on risk for the business requires changing back to a culture of innovation.

Plan for the Dive

Now, keep in mind that taking risks entails direction and planning. This isn’t just a cannonball dive into the deep end of the pool without looking. Making the business more competitive through technology means having a vision, articulating that vision, and then having the wherewithal to follow through and deliver results.

Rallying the Troops

Begley executed this approach at GE by telling her team not that it was okay to fail, but rather that their goals were very aggressive and that even partial success would be better than failing to try. If the team showed good effort, they would celebrate. Of course, one of the biggest risks to this approach is that senior management won’t approve:

When pursuing anything that’s risky, you must always have your team’s back. When something bad happens — and stuff happens, whether it’s a cyber attack or your data center goes down during a really crucial time — whatever the case may be, it is so critically important that the CIO takes all the blame and protects their team.

The punch line is that a great CIO who comes out of the corner swinging (and watches their team members’ backs in the process) will inspire the kind of bold innovation that the company will come to nurture and respect.

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