Tuesday, September 12, 2017

CIOs as “Chief Innovation Officer”: How to Spur IT Innovation to Get Digital Ready

Create and nurture an environment in your organization where curiosity is encouraged, humility is appreciated, creative thinking is recognized, and calculated risk is tolerant.

Innovation is about moving forward. In any business, if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. There is no standing still. This is particularly true for IT due to the fast growth of information and disruptive nature of technologies. Thus, Chief Innovation Officer is one of the most appropriate titles for modern CIOs. The art of innovation is that it involves new ways of bringing together ideas and resources to create something novel. The science of innovation is to take a structural approach to innovation management. IT organization can become an innovation hub to bridge the art and science of innovation and get digital ready.


Setting the right policies to make innovative things easy to do: Many IT organizations still apply traditional “command and control” style management discipline, get restricted by silo mentality, discourage creativity. IT staffs keep hands busy to fix symptoms, without digging into the root cause or exploring the alternative way to do things. Organizations with a command type of organizational culture are indifferent to external innovations. Many times, the innovators think they live in the idea wonderland, but in reality, they feel confused by hidden rules, get trapped by negative vibes or confront unhealthy competitions. Therefore, CIOs as top business leaders should learn how to set the right policies to make innovative things easy to do, and arrange heterogeneous group setting to inspire creativity. Further, empowered by the latest digital technologies today, organizations can set up the appropriately configured innovation platform which creates a scalable means for sharing and building ideas throughout the enterprise. Digital leaders nowadays should have wise eyes that can spot innovators and change agents who can think big, think deep, and think differently. There is no surprise to know that most of innovative organizations are headed by strong leaders with a clear vision, have original ideas, understand and appreciate the merits of people who can think creatively and do things innovatively. If you have idea gap, it means the root causes are about talent gap and culture gap. It is strategic imperative to cultivate a culture of innovation and risk tolerance, so people are more open to try new things and share thoughts and ideas fearlessly.


Setting the right priorities to unleash digital potential: At the dawn of the digital era, IT needs to be more transformative, set the right priorities for unleashing digital potential. The role of the CIO should be able to envision not only where a company believes it is going, but how it will get there, and how it might be missing out on opportunities because of limitations on understanding. IT leaders need to understand that technology is not just mechanical or technical, but also artistic and delightful. Running digital IT means to redesign existing transactions to something new, being innovative and creative. IT is the business. Traditional IT often gets criticized because it does not deliver value to the business and its focus is not on the business where it should be. It results in a team that has to spend all their time to “keep the lights on," without taking enough effort to unlock the digital potential of the business. Information does not live alone but permeates to everywhere in the businesses, Information Potential directly impacts the business's potential of the organization. Thus, the value of information is not isolated. IT as the information master of the business plays an important role in running a smart digital business. To unleash the full digital potential, IT staffs also should take the effort to alleviate themselves of the mundane, daily tasks that weight them down. IT talent should use the creative side of the brain to discover new ways of doing things that allow for innovation to happen. If you weren't able to think creatively in IT, you would be disrupted and floundering as much as those falling mighty.


Setting the right performance metrics to evaluate innovation: You can only manage what you measure, that includes innovation. Innovation is a process and a management discipline to transform novel ideas and achieve its business value. It is important to set guidelines for developing a customized suite of innovation metrics. Because metrics is part of transparent visual management allowing pulling. You choose those KPIs by deciding which are seen as critical to making progress in order to deliver more innovations. The measures should be oriented to justify innovation the organization needs. For example, the innovation process KPIs can demonstrate the growing capability of the organization to deliver innovation outcome with business impact in the future. IT leaders should set guidelines for developing a customized suite of innovation metrics. The few the better, but they have to be credible and relevant in the eyes of stakeholders. Because, often, poor-defined metrics can mislead, cause confusion, suck the energy, create unnecessary complication, and decrease the overall innovation effectiveness.  


Running IT as an information and innovation hub is strategically important to get digital ready. Create and nurture an environment in your organization where curiosity is encouraged, humility is appreciated, creative thinking is recognized, and calculated risk is tolerant. Innovation Management needs to take a balanced approach to provide maximal freedom for ideators, and then set straightforward process for converting an idea into an innovation, to achieve the high-performance result and unlock the digital potential of the organization.


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