CIOs Must Innovate or Go Home

If you are unable to innovate, you might as well just leave the business world completely.  This is what author Rob Preston believes.  The changing trends in technology make the need for innovation even greater.  Still, as Preston notes, many people in power within organizations simply do not know how to create the desired innovation.  This results in an overwhelmingly pessimistic view of innovation and the changing role of the CIO in particular.  Preston also notes that, even those who are optimistic seem not to have the power to back up their beliefs:

Even those optimistic about the state of innovation offer arguments that are less than convincing. In concluding that the “fundamental drivers of growth are stronger than they have ever been in human history,” Boston Consulting Group cites its recent executive survey, which finds that executives worldwide plan to invest more in R&D and profess a renewed commitment to innovation — as if lots of spending and the best intentions are a better measure of success than the quality of what's being produced. BCG's choice of the 50 most innovative companies in the world, skewed toward the highest-profile players in just four industries, bears out its flawed analysis.

Preston continues by stating that, on a microeconomic level, pessimism about innovation is slightly different than on a macroeconomic level.  The issue here is learning how to incorporate profitable innovation into already busy days.  Preston points out that numerous Fortune 1000 companies have shown more than their share of innovation, so perhaps they have the answer.  The common thing among these companies is that the employees are able to work towards long-term business opportunities without losing sight of short-term needs such as profits and shareholder value, for example.  As Preston says, “Getting the balance right is a huge part of the innovation challenge.”

Another way to create this innovation is to use rotating teams.  That way, no one person can “own” the innovation, and everyone can add to it and help it grow.  Furthermore, this type of rotation fosters collaborations and aids in risk management as well.  A changing team will equal changes in your business, and innovation will simply come more naturally.

According to Keith J. Figlioli, senior VP of healthcare informatics at Premier Healthcare Alliance, we must consider three things: managing the core of our businesses, building adjacent businesses, and innovate for future opportunities.  Keeping your focus in one or all of these three areas gives your team something to work towards.  Furthermore, teams will learn how “business will change what we need to do in order to change with it.”

Unfortunately, according to Preston, there is just no single or best way to deal with driving and creating innovation.  One thing we can do, however, is learn from the experience of senior IT executives who have already walked down these roads.  These are the people who will know what to expect.  This does not mean we must trust them completely with driving innovation, but we certainly should not ignore their expertise either.  With a little hard work, research, and drive, any organization can find their own personal best way to drive and create innovation.

Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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