Friday, July 3, 2015

A Hybrid CIO

A CIO as “Chief Intrapreneur Officer” has creative, logical and abstract thinking traits.

Nowadays information is the lifeblood, and technology is often the disruption behind the changes. CIO as an IT leader is also faced with significant skill shift; in order to transform IT from a cost center to a value generator; from the back-office support function to business’s innovation engine. Which IT leader should your organization pick: a logical CIO or a creative CIO; a strategic CIO or a tactic CIO? And as a modern CIO, what’re the most critical thinking traits to lead a digital IT organization?

A CIO as “Chief Intrapreneur Officer” has creative, logical and abstract thinking traits: There is a need for creativity at the executive level, but it’s hard to be strategic without first being able to analyze the current condition. It often takes a logical mind to determine if a creative solution will work. Would a highly creative person with that much authority cause chaos? You have to have a good analytical skills to see which creative solution works best to solve your problem or generate more revenue. You can be creative for a sake of creativity, but your creativity can backfire especially in technologies. In larger organizations assume that they should not go it alone, and instead, seek out talented team members to balance out the cognitive difference, leadership is teamwork, CIOs need to surround themselves with complimentary strength, skills, and experience, so the leadership team as a whole can transform organization smoothly. A CIO whose strength is management (planning, logistics, organization) should make sure that he/she has some creative minds on his/her leadership team (innovation, diplomacy, strategy). Likewise, if his/her strength is leadership (visioning, innovation, diplomacy, strategy), then he/she should make sure he/she has good management skills in her/her leadership team. If they are equally strong in both realms of management and leadership, they should still build a team that will share the load and offer different perspectives.

The CIO of today must be able to transition confidently between being strategic and tactical: It is critical to positioning oneself to be able to understand the business and become the trusted and strategic business adviser. However, results are what matter most to those running the business groups which requires a collaborative and creative approach to leverage strengths and offset weaknesses, along with skilled and inspired staff who have clear direction on the call to action and how the work is meeting company’s objectives, like driving top line revenue. So one of the most effective traits of being a top leader would be connected and trusted by the business partners, be collaborative to get the most with the business suppliers and staff, pay attention to significant details to make sure what is needed is delivered.

A contemporary CIO needs to be a "whole-brainer": Or you may say being logic in your mind based on your years of engineering training and experiences., etc. but being creative in your heart, dream big, think big, because a CIO's vision will directly impact their organization's strategy these days. That is also being say, one shouldn't separate creativity and logic as two completely different disciplines, they are interconnected, only combine them seamlessly, CIOs can manage innovation, which is how to transform novel ideas (creativity) into structured business solutions (logic) and achieve its business value. Any leadership role, especially a CIO, needs to be more well-rounded than to have a title of "logical" or "creative." A CIO has to be logical enough to plan, engineer and follow through, but more importantly, a CIO needs to be creative and persuasive in order to get their ideas approved and funded. A logical mind can follow directions, a creative mind can lead.

A hybrid CIO is creative, logical, and persuasive: Be creative to produce ideas; be persuasive to advocate the ideas; be logical enough to implement it, guide a team and "make it happen." The logic focus is great for a functional head. The persuasive focus is great for leading and selling the vision. In the executive suite, you need a balance of both logic and persuasiveness. A touch of creativity and imagination would tend to offer a little spark too. Be creative enough to "dream" a new solution and "sell the dream." It is absolutely correct that logical mind is very important in IT and tech related department as machines do not work as magic but only based on instructions in whatever form provided to the machine. On the other side, steering IT as an organization requires more than logical thinking, it requires leadership capabilities and the ability to think outside the usual box and lead more creatively.

Some balance is needed. The CIO is a leader, a decision-maker, and success is often dictated by the logical choices we make. CIOs need to be able to recognize areas of deficiencies and inefficiencies, then ask the question How can we...?" of the IT team. A creative CIO would also be good at asking ‘Why’ and ‘Why not,” keep everyone involved and foster an environment of creative thinking. Great CIOs are not determined by which side of their minds or brains are stronger (although a keen intellect and strong emotional intelligence are both key factors). Great CIOs must be great leaders - and if they are both logical and creative thinkers, that would make their leadership more effective. There are many innovative and progressive organizations where IT sparks organizational creativity. In each case, the organization has built highly interactive teams with representatives from each line of business focused on finding innovative new ways to creatively resolve issues. Once IT is unburdened from the daily routine of flipping the lights and break/fix; it’s almost natural that the staff turns into the co-creators. The challenge is getting out from the daily burden—but that requires creativity and effective leadership.

CIOs need to be Chief Intrapreneur Officers with the hybrid mind, be able to instill passion, creativity, freshness into both the art of management philosophy and the science of IT practices. Without balance, you will go nowhere in larger organizations. Surely there’s no perfect CIO, but he or she can always build a premium team with the cognitive difference, strength and complementary skills in order to run a high-performance IT organization.


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