Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Unconventional CIOs: How to Play Odd Balls for Running Innovative IT

IT has the potential to become a creative business problem solver because it is in the unique position to connect cross-functional dots.

Digitalization is driving hyperconnectivity and unpredictability, demanding more rapid deployment that can quickly adapt to the changes and adjust to the new market conditions. Digital power is the combination of the power of knowledge, the power of information and technology, the power of people, and the power of creativity. Traditional IT in the industrial age is often blamed as the controller and change laggard, but nowadays, all leading companies across the vertical sectors declare they are in the information management business, IT needs to become the linchpin of digitalization and innovation engine of the business. To be creative, you must do something different, creativity is all about change. CIOs should take bold leadership, practice unconventional thinking and run innovative IT to get digital ready.

Shape bigger, much bigger box of thinking: Organizations large or small are stepping into the deep, deep digital new normal. IT also needs to shift from an isolated support function to a people-centric business partner. It is also important to switch from inside-out operation driven to outside-in customer-focus. Thus, digital CIOs and IT professionals must be able to shape the bigger box of thinking, break down silos, and “we always do things like that” mentality. When they leave those outdated mindsets and standards to seek additional knowledge, fresh insight, and experience, they are stepping outside of the older box and expand into a much bigger box, to keep creativity flow. From the problem-solving perspective, it encourages looking at the wider aspects around the problem space and then understanding the effect of imposing boundaries with that space, in order to frame the right problems and solve them effectively. From innovation management perspective, shaping a bigger box by making connections between different boxes enable the organization to handle innovation streams for different purposes and with different time frames. Innovation is, in fact, the business mechanism through which you grow and envolve something to make it greater (value-added or breakthrough) based on a combination of modification of previous attributes or approach. From the anthropological perspective, the deep problem that reveals at the societal level is to understand what are the evolutionary pathways implied by those mind switches and how we can leverage different thought processes to solve complex problems facing us today's business effectively.

Boost the creative performance of inclusive teams:
Traditional IT organizations take orders from customers, keep busy on fixing immediate problems. Digital IT needs to spend more time and resource on innovation-related activities. In practice, innovation in the "corporate" world has a lot to do with fostering a creative environment, build heterogeneous teams to boost creative performance. Ideas will flow frictionlessly and innovation will happen seamlessly when people are given free space to practice creativity without overly rigid rules, inflexible structure, or bureaucratic management to hold them back. Digital CIOs are inclusive leaders who dedicate to developing creative teams for doing interdependent works, be sure to get all potential perspectives involved, so everyone has a say, enforcing collective creativity, accountability, and trust. An organization that has a lightweight process and collaborative culture which allows ideas to flow, get protected, channeled and nurtured will succeed more often than an organization that has the overly rigid process and functional silos. The digital management is really open-minded to implement fresh ideas, build up a positive emotional climate, foster trustful relationship, cool down stressed people before they stress others, build up trust by bonding people around clear and benevolent intentions, make sure smooth information flow and achieve creative performance effortlessly.


Reward risk-taking, not just compliance: Traditional IT organizations act as the controller to avoid risk. Innovation comes with a risk of failure, usually not well tolerated by risk-allergic mindset. Digital IT needs to move from risk avoidance to risk mitigation to risk management and intelligence. Failure is part of innovation, as long as risks have been identified and agreed with stakeholders as per business need, you can take place risk models which effectively predict, optimize, and consider a continual and sustainable approach with multi-faced perspectives. The successful thinking about risk leads to survival by mitigating risks, and the accumulation of enough resources to thrive by capturing opportunities in it and adapting to the uncertainty and changes. Thus, to develop an innovative IT organization, IT leaders should encourage risk-taking, build the culture of risk tolerance, reward calculated risk-taking, inspire the culture of innovation, recognize innovators, fail fast and forward, learn from failures to improve innovation success rate. Thus, it is important to create a working atmosphere to allow free expressing the creative potentials. Most of the innovative organizations are headed by innovative leaders with original ideas, who can see, understand and appreciate the merits of people who can think differently and do things in the better way, and take the specific threshold for justifying opportunities and business outcome.

Remember that information is the lifeblood, and knowledge is power. IT has the potential to become a creative business problem solver because it is in the unique position to connect cross-functional dots. As the CIO, you have the most influential position within the business to make the true proactive contribution to run a highly innovative IT organization.

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