Thursday, September 22, 2016

Digital CIOs as “Thinkingaire”: How to Master Multidimensional Digital Thinking Effortlessly

No wonder the CIO is one of the most paradoxical and sophisticated leadership roles, as he or she must master all sort of thinking, to be a digital “Thinkingaire.”

Due to the changing nature of IT with overwhelming information and fast growing digital technologies, IT becomes overcomplex with high velocity. The CIO is not a static management role, but a dynamic leadership role. Digital CIOs must wear multiple hats to play situational leadership, and the CIO’s responsibilities can be quite varied even with the same title or position. In order to lead effectively with broader vision and comprehensive strategy at the age of digital with "VUCA" characteristics, CIOs need to be the “Thinkingaire” who can master multidimensional digital thinking, and lead digital transformation effortlessly.

Strategic Thinking: CIOs need to be multidimensional thinkers to gain an in-depth understanding of both technology and business via different lenses, have a clear technological vision, and have genuine empathy with the users of technology and end customers as well. You must first be aware of new technology before you can learn to apply it to the business. So this is the prerequisite for CIO to become a technological visionary with strategic thinking, understand how to capture the digital technology trend and well apply the right technology to the business with a tailored solution. CIOs need to be the knowledgeable business strategists and specialized business generalists to co-create strategy, the focal point of digitalization strategy is part and parcel of an overall corporate strategy and then an IT strategy. They should be able to not just understand business objectives and priorities, but also be able to build the best strategy based on the circumstances that will allow the highest probability of success and controls risk, break these down and cascade them downstream to the IT team for step-wise implementation. Being strategic is about having problem-solving skills and technological understanding that give you the ability to invent new ways to create or manage information effectively to drive business growth.

Innovative thinking: Digital is the age of innovation. Innovation is another dimension to the mix in the CIO’s thinking lenses. An innovative CIOs would focus on the business growth and customer delight. An opportunity for the CIO to add a lot of value in the C-Suite is helping C-Level leaders understand the possibilities of how new technologies can enhance the creation or improvement of products and services while balancing the technical and business risks, the investment needed, timing, etc. Creativity is a higher level of thinking because it often imposes a higher cognitive load as you think 'harder' and consciously use different kinds of thought actions and thinking tools like association, perspective shifting, opposites etc. when you are wanting to come up with a creative solution to a challenge. Creativity is one of the most important thinking processes to connect the dots between IT and business, strategy and execution, management and governance, information, insight, and innovation as well.

Systems Thinking: Digital business ecosystem is hyper-connected with high velocity and interdependence. Systems Thinking is the thought process to understand the interconnectivity between parts and whole. This is particularly important for IT leaders to bridge IT-business gaps, improve business processes and optimize business capabilities. Systems Thinking needs to discover the interconnectivity and interdependence of the digital business ecosystem. Therefore, you need to be looking for something “hidden,” which is not always obvious, you don't just accidently find it, you structure the thinking process to discover the patterns, and always see the trees without missing the forest. Most originations create a sense of internal competition for the limited resource or functional performance rank. That can easily make the C-level participants lose sight of the end game, a CIO who masters Systems Thinking can well balance positive internal relationship via systematic information management; and also has some of the analytic and synthetic qualities that are commonly associated with successful executives. Being a System Thinker also means you need to have an open mind where most don't, most traditional thinking minds are clouded by past experiences and conventional wisdom, Systems Thinkers desire to listen to the different viewpoint and integrate them into a holistic perspective for improving leadership effectiveness and maturity.

Information is power and it depends whether that power is used for the good purpose of the organization. The CIO has a role to play in balancing, not just leveling the internal playing field. In order to change IT landscape with a strategic view, you must have passion and drive at the core along with these qualities--Genuinely curious about Information, be creative to experiment better solutions, and leverage Systems Thinking for balancing and capturing the big picture. No wonder the CIO is one of the most paradoxical and sophisticated leadership roles, as he or she must master all sort of thinking, to be a digital “Thinkingaire.”


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