Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The CIO’s C-Level Thinking: Creative or Critical?

Creativity is perceived as an important part of our future and civilization, without it, there will be no technology.

Perhaps CIOs have one of the most sophisticated roles to play in the modern business world, as technology in nature is both scientific and innovative, thus, it requires CIO as IT master also being fluent in different thinking processes and business dialects in order to handle business complexities. So what are CIOs’ thinking style: Creative or critical?

1.   Creativity is Crucial Leadership Quality in C-Suite

Creativity contributes to growth strategy, creativity contributes to an alternative solution to a problem, and creativity is appreciated by the end customer, thus, we still view creativity as an important part of our future & civilization, without it, there will be no technology.

  • ‘Right-Brained” Creativity: Some define creativity as the innate process to create novel ideas, an ability to create new metaphors, strong pattern recognition - relationships between objects and actions, nouns and verbs, where none existed previously, CIOs need be creative enough to "dream" a new solution and "sell the dream"; logical enough to implement it, guide a team and "make it happen". A good solution is to have a creative CIO with 'logical minds' in her/his team.
  • Is Creative Mind Better Suited for Top Leadership: Though that most of IT Operations involve analytical and logical work, some argue it is the creative mind better suited for top leadership. So have the CIO think of new and uncommon ways how IT can contribute to the corporation and help the business to make right strategy with growth mindset ... and have the logical mind focused middle IT management to make it work.

2. Critical Thinking Streamlines Leadership Journey  

There is a need for creativity at the executive level, but it is 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.

  • The logical mind for the CIO: The CIO is a leader, a decision-maker, and success is often dictated by the logical choices he/she make. The CIO needs to be able to recognize areas of deficiencies and inefficiencies, then ask the question 'How can we...?" of the IT team. A good CIO would keep everyone involved and foster an environment of creative thinking & critical thinking.
  • “Left-Brained” Logic: Basic & traditional engineering mindset (logical, structural, rational) is very 'left brained'. CIOs have to have good analytical skills to see which creative solution works best to solve your problem or generate more revenue. You can be created for the sake of creativity, but your creativity can backfire without comprehensive analysis.

3. “Whole-Brain” Thinkers Wanted

It is absolutely correct that the logical mind is very important in IT and tech related department as machines do not work like 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 it takes creativity to shape the new box. Without balance, you will go nowhere in larger organizations. 

  • Contemporary CIOs need to be "whole-brainers” ideally, or you may say being logic in your mind based on your years of engineering training/experiences., etc. but being creative in your heart, dream big, think big, as the CIO's vision will directly impact their organization's strategy for long term. That also says, one shouldn't classify creativity and logic in two completely different disciplines, they are also inter-connected, only mixing them seamlessly, CIOs can manage innovation effectively.     
  • Great CIOs must be great leaders: Great CIOs are not just determined by which side of their minds/brains is stronger (although a keen intellect and strong emotional intelligence are both key factors). Any leadership role, especially a CIO, needs to be better-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, but a creative mind can make a difference. 
  • It’s all about teamwork: A CIO whose strength is management (planning, logistics, and organization) should make sure that he/she has some creative member on the leadership team (innovation, diplomacy, strategy). Likewise, if her strength is leadership (visioning, innovation, diplomacy, and strategy) then she should have good managers in 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. 
Therefore, more often than not, be both creative and critical, if it’s possible! The CIO of today must be able to transition confidently between the strategic and tactical. It is critical to position oneself to be able to understand the business and become a trusted and strategic business adviser. However, results are what matter most to those running the business groups which require 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 that work is meeting company objectives like driving top-line revenue. 


Hello Pearl

I have been reading all the conversations of yours in CIO forums and I must say that it was pleasure to see your pragmatic, unbiased and balanced approach on the CIO thoughts. I read above and I see that it is very relevant topic today. With your permission, My interjection is that, SCAM ( Social, Cloud Analytics and MObility ) will re-invent the CIOs profile in next 5 year time frame to a large extent and 10 years - fully.
Enterprise itself will need to re-invent in terms of delivery models and business models and costs and revenue streams in light of the above 4. ( see the Dell - reinvention and Reader digest a centuries old media - demise last month ). CIO role is becoming more business critical and in many cases revenue earner and enablers going forward. So my practical advice now to CIOs are to follow the CEO's brain and styles within your Enterprise. I am sure that CEO and CIO will be partner in next 10 years to bring the agility and deliveries and competitive advantages of Enterprises in next 10 years. The recent example has been set by Toyota CIO, who said in Interview that cloud connected Car is he net result of Me deciding not to manage mails any more. Let the Toyota CEO run the Vehicle business than IT and ITES shop. She get heads and and focus to do what business needed from them the most - innovations. It may be one good example though, but I am sure that trend will be more and more common, that CIOs saying we do not want to be managing mails and outlooks and servers and desktops and all those backups stoarages and report to CFO and keep seeking budget kind of a model.

I can also see that SCAM does provide a CIO to aspire for CEO seats in next decade - a trend that never took off. Neither CIO aspired, nor some one thought that they can run the business too. People thought that they are technocrats and can never run the trucking, insurance, travels, and so many industries. I think that disconnect in business and technology blurring and Cloud it, and shore it paradigm will bring CIO much closure to CEO thought processes. Signs are there, in many cloud initiatives, CEO are driving more than CIOs and CFOs are driving it. This is only a sign that CIO role gaining more significant and much closure business link of CIO is about to be created in CIO profiles.

Any thoughts are welcome.

Best Regards
Manoj Srivastava

nice, it is an informative article.
thanks for share.
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