Welcome to our blog, the digital brainyard to fine tune "Digital Master," innovate leadership, and reimagine the future of IT.

The magic “I” of CIO sparks many imaginations: Chief information officer, chief infrastructure officer , Chief Integration Officer, chief International officer, Chief Inspiration Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Influence Office etc. The future of CIO is entrepreneur driven, situation oriented, value-added,she or he will take many paradoxical roles: both as business strategist and technology visionary,talent master and effective communicator,savvy business enabler and relentless cost cutter, and transform the business into "Digital Master"!

The future of CIO is digital strategist, global thought leader, and talent master: leading IT to enlighten the customers; enable business success via influence.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Popular Quotes Collection XVIII of “Digital Master” Book Series

Digital workplace is dynamic, fluid, live, creative, flexible, and productive.

“Digital Master” is the series of guidebooks (15+ books) to perceive the multifaceted impact digital is making to the business and our society, help forward-thinking organizations navigate through the digital journey in a systematic way, and avoid “rogue digital.” Here is the set of popular quotes for conveying the digital vision and sharing the unique insight about the digital transformation.

Accountability can be harnessed via motivating your employees to achieve high than expected result and build the culture of learning, trust, and professionalism.

The quality of feedback is dependent on the quality of feedback giver.

Attitude is one’s “Settled mode of thinking.”

All generations need to realize they can learn from each other, to run a successful business and an advanced society.

Education is the means to end, not the end itself. Education should not become another status quo, or silo, or the end.

Metaphorically, IT is the nervous system of the enterprise body.

IT metrics need to evolve to something that matters to the business audience, at the same time that “business sentiment” needs to get put into something more tangible.

Trust means how to strike the right balance upon what IT can give up control, and what IT needs to control.

Keep in mind, measurement is not just numbers, but stories.

First, measure the right things, and then measure them right.

100 Creativity Ingredients: Everyone’s Playbook to Unlock Creativity by Pearl Zhu
To succeed in driving innovation, it is essential for empowering people to push ideas forward, and the entire company to be pulling in the right direction.
Pearl Zhu, 100 Creativity Ingredients: Everyone’s Playbook to Unlock Creativity by Pearl Zhu

Digital workplace is dynamic, fluid, live, creative, flexible, and productive.

-100 Creativity Ingredients: Everyone’s Playbook to Unlock Creativity by Pearl Zhu

Essentially, innovation is a type of creative disruption.

-100 Creativity Ingredients: Everyone’s Playbook to Unlock Creativity by Pearl Zhu

Self-realization is a desire to experience ever deeper fulfillment by realizing and actualizing more of own potential.

-100 Creativity Ingredients: Everyone’s Playbook to Unlock Creativity by Pearl Zhu

Creative collaboration via integrative diversity and seamless orchestration can overcome silos.

-100 Creativity Ingredients: Everyone’s Playbook to Unlock Creativity by Pearl Zhu

Creativity is the potential which can be unlocked and innovation is the serendipity which can be unpuzzled.
-100 Creativity Ingredients: Everyone’s Playbook to Unlock Creativity by Pearl Zhu

Three “Do Not” in Digital Innovation

Do Not think that innovation = no rules; also Do Not manage innovation with the overly rigid process.

Innovation involves new ways of bringing together ideas and resources to create something novel and then transform those novel ideas to achieve the business value. It's obvious that innovation is being pursued now more than ever, and in fact, we see much more innovation in more and more areas of the business landscapes. Digital innovation has an expanded scope and innovation is benefiting the widest audience of the digital ecosystem. Still, there is a high percentage of failure rate for innovation management, and the innovation success rate is not always proportional to how much money you pour in. Innovation is more science than art in the digital era though. Here are three “Do Not” in digital innovation.

“Do Not” confuse innovation with technology only: Though technology is one of the major drivers of innovation, innovation is not just about technology, it's about people, culture, partnership, processes, etc. Innovation comes in many flavors and there are many opportunities in an enterprise to do so. And innovation is in the eye of the beholder -customers. Digital innovation is more often based on collective effort and customer-centricity. So either doing innovation or any kind of changes, it’s important to keep the end in mind, to achieve the business value - do things in the better way, differentiate yourself from your competition, run, grow and transform the business. Innovation is not for its own sake, but for problem-solving. The only test for whether it is or is not an innovation is whether it makes any difference to a dimension that is valued by whoever has a stake in your offering. Looking uphill and into the future can help to identify the real problems that matter, and on a scale that can make a significant difference for the longer term. Innovation is not just about the latest technology, innovation is about discovering an alternative way to solve either old or emergent problem. Innovation is a core business capability which is built via weaving all necessary business elements such as people, process, technology, resources, etc., into the core competency, and innovation is to transform novel ideas to achieve its business value with consistent deliveries.

Do not think that innovation = no rules; also Do Not manage innovation with the overly rigid process: Although as the old adage implies, you can’t make the omelet without breaking some eggs, breaking the outdated rules is an important part of innovation. Still, innovation is a process, to ensure innovation success, the right level of the guideline is important, being "unruly" incurs risk, you need to set the updated digital principles for managing the innovation and mitigating the risks. From talent/culture management perspective, ‘business creativity’ such as leveraging creative thinking for brainstorming solutions to achieve business goals, does require certain ‘rules,’ to help frame, stay focus, and make innovation a fair game to invite all great talent in. An organization that has a lightweight innovation management process which allows ideas flowing, gets protected, channeled, and nurtured will succeed more often than an organization that does not have such a process. The science of innovation is how to well set up the process, most companies fail at innovation execution because they have no clear process, nor understand the linkage required to work horizontally across departments, or a holistic approach to managing innovation. But the overly rigid processes or too ‘pushy’ goals will stifle innovation. Keep hierarchy as low as possible, cut the politics or any unnecessary complexity. A defined structure is essential to managing innovation in a corporation, but there's no single structure that will work in every organization, how to strike the right balance of setting processes and creating an open space to keep ideas flow and innovation grow is the piece of art.

Do Not just measure innovation with lag indicators such as financial metrics only: Normally organizations look for KPIs measuring business results generated by innovation efforts, or the measurement is to create new revenue and drive early success to create a positive spiral. But do not measure innovation only based on short-term financial metrics only. Because it takes quite some time for a new innovation drive to produce those measures. Also, innovation is not just about the new products/services delivery only, there are “soft innovations” such as management innovations which have business learning and growth perspectives, and they should be measured via leading indicators only. These are longer-term investments which take multiple periods to have an effect on the financial KPIs. While in any time period, when evaluating the KPIs, the financial results are seen as the result of activities in prior periods, that’s why they are called “lag indicators.” One of the solutions is to define process KPIs of innovation, which demonstrates the growing capability of the organization to deliver more innovation with business impact in the future. You choose those leading KPIs by deciding which are seen as critical to making business progress in order to deliver more innovations. The goal of innovation measurement is to track the innovation management effectiveness, not just about the quantitative results which sometimes can mislead the management with a short-term perspective only.

Innovation comes in many flavors and there are many opportunities in an enterprise to do so. But there are numerous pitfalls on the way. There is no one size fits all formula to manage innovation as well. The path for innovation blossom can be iterative, evolutionary, revolutionary, or disruptive. Thus, it's important to manage your own set of “Dos and Don’t” list via lessons learned and develop your set of best/next practices for optimizing digital innovation management.

What kind of IT leaders are in demand?

The IT leaders of the future and the exemplars of today must move away from pure IT managers, they must thrive to become “Chief Innovation Officer,” “Chief Insight Officer,” and “Chief Improvement Officer.”

The digital business landscape is only becoming more complex due to varied factors such as the increasing speed of changes, velocity, complexity, unpredictability, etc. Regardless of which industry or the nature of organization you are in, from IT management perspective, being a digital master will need to master the art of creating unique, differentiating business value from piles of commoditized technologies and the sea of information. It is in this context that organizations build business verticals within to manage the complexity and improve organizational responsiveness and performance. So the logical concerns could be: What kind of IT leaders are in demand?

The digital CIO is a business executive first, an IT manager the second: The traditional IT leaders were often perceived as IT geeks who climbed up IT ranks and speak the different language from the business. However, in the digital era, IT is part of the business, and business is IT because all forward-thinking organizations across the vertical sectors declare they are in the information management business. The digital CIO is a strategic business leader first, and a tactical IT manager the second. CIOs need to provide leadership to the organization from Board level down to the business unit and IT organization because they are in the unique position to oversee the business processes, and IT is the linchpin to weave all necessary business elements into the differentiated business competency. CIOs can deliver ‘competitive capability” to business as many businesses will plateau without IT. In this case, the CIO needs to capture the full picture, the holistic business insight, rather than IT picture only. CIOs should also educate other business functions with data supported assessments to convince that the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces. The digital organization is the holistic living system which keeps growing, rationally speaking, if there is a conflict inherent in serving both individual business units and the enterprise as a whole, it has to be realized is that sometimes the additional cost to the enterprise is worth it for building the long-term business competency. CIOs are uniquely positioned to drive business innovation because of their vantage point in digital transformation. CIOs can also provide valuable insight in the form of money saved, revenue from new unexplored business idea etc. There is a co-dependency that should be recognized in a mature - respectful manner that facilitates the strategic goals and objectives of the enterprise. In short, CIOs should be more as a general manager of IT, have a good understanding of both businesses and IT is crucial to order to translate the business requirement without getting lost, and communicate in business language with clarity.  

The digital CIO requires being a business strategist first, and a hands-on tactical manager second: Digital CIOs are empowered by foresightful companies to co-develop the business strategy, drive changes, and lead digital transformation because more often than not, technology is the disruptive force behind the business transformation. Technology changes very quickly. You must first be aware of new technologies before you can learn to apply it to the business. So this is the prerequisite for the CIO to become a technological visionary and business strategist, understand how to capture the digital technology trend and well apply the right technologies to the business with a tailored solution to catalyze business growth. Therefore, CIOs must adopt the attitudes and styles of strategic leadership (transformational way), being confident to create and manage changes at the business scope. They must also be willing to engage in conversations with IT staff, have the technical “know-how” attitude, so the staff believes the CIO is not that far away from reality, not for micromanagement. It requires a leadership substance of vision and style that more closely matches the action-oriented style of senior executives and also has multidimensional intelligence. CIOs generally have a greater opportunity to stand out and take a lead in driving innovation across their companies, because IT has much more of an opportunity to enable incremental top-line and bottom-line value across the business, not just within IT.

Digital CIOs should be “Chief Improvement Officer” based on tangible business results: An effective CIO should lead using metrics that substantiate the ROI. You can only improve what you manage, you can only manage what you measure, and you can only measure what you focus on. Don’t make the measurement to become another industry. CIOs should have governance systems in place that drive continual improvement. Don’t just play the number game, but connect the contextual dots and focus on the overall business objectives. CIOs need to keep a measure and periodicity at which the measure is reviewed against setting targets. Ensure that IT performance measures are both qualitative and quantitative, and implement whatever mechanisms you need to be able to gather the data, and gain a full understanding of the upstream and downstream impacts of IT investment. Without a fully comprehensive understanding, inefficiencies across operational silos won't be addressed. The most dangerous part is when performance system is connected with motivation system on an operational level, but disconnected from the strategy management.

The IT leaders of the future and the exemplars of today must move away from pure IT managers, they must thrive to become “Chief Innovation Officer,” “Chief Insight Officer,” and “Chief Improvement Officer.” To improve IT effectiveness and maturity, CIOs have to be the trustful business partners and insightful strategists; especially as more and more enterprises are leveraging IT for revenue generating initiatives. Then ensure IT raises the bar on a continual basis to ensure the stakeholders get a real picture of how well IT can contribute to both the business’s bottom line efficiency and top-line business growth, and IT is the business differentiator and competitive advantage.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Digital Board’s Leadership, Composition, and Succession Inquiries

The boardroom composition will directly impact how they lead and which tone they will set for the entire organization to follow.

The contemporary corporate board as the directorial role plays a significant role in overseeing strategy, advising corporate executives and monitoring business performance. The BoDs should also walk the talk to digitize the boardroom with strategic imperative because often the digital tone is set at the top and echo spirally to all levels of the organization. Here is a set of the digital board’s leadership, composition, and succession inquiries.

How healthy is the relationship between the C-Level executives and the board? Both BoDs and senior leadership teams are the top leadership roles. Whereby the BoD assumes the dual role of guidance and governance steering, whilst leaving the day-to-day leadership/management process in the hands of the C-level executives. BoD should get to know the senior leadership through presentations in the boardroom and regular meetings and communications outside of it. It is important for the board to actively monitor business management for transparency, and analysis of potential long-term consequences must become the agenda in this hyperconnected digital era. At the big table, nothing should be personal, it's all about how to monitor the business performance, drive changes, optimize business processes, improve knowledge worker productivity, verify strategic plan effectiveness, and approach GRC in a holistic way. At the top level of leadership, BoDs and senior executives should leverage the structural power (the position with the organizational hierarchy) to delegate; expert power  (business and technical knowledge) to build trust and enforce leadership empathy and effectiveness, and prestige power (social connections) to amplify leadership influence.

What is the board succession plan, and how to do it effectively? The increasing speed of change and digital dynamic brought much-needed oversight and additional rigor to the leadership succession planning process at many companies. The digital board’s succession plan needs to be well aligned with the board composition, as well as the business’s strategy evolution and digital transformation. How to build a digital fit boardroom and do it effectively should be at the top of the boardroom agenda. Choosing someone based on only one criterion may limit the board. But overall speaking, digital fit starts with the mind fit, the new breed of BoD as the directorial role should be able to think outside the box, bring a fresh viewpoint to pinpoint the possible blind spots of the senior management, and improve business leadership effectiveness and maturity. The first step is to carefully select the BoD to comprise of knowledgeable/insightful, experienced, independent, and reputable experts. Boards are more effective with a mix of specialized generalists who can drill down in some areas and experts with the bandwidth and experience to see beyond their silos and all be able to communicate with each other seamlessly and complement each other’s expertise to avoid groupthink, bridge gaps, and be able to criticize the strategy constructively and advise management insightfully.

How to encourage and recognize individual directors feedback? Nowadays, the corporate board should no longer just practice rubber stamp duty, the BoDs as the business critic can provide excellent feedback which gives the top management invaluable to improve; great questions to self-aware; and keen insight to gain the in-depth understanding of the digital ecosystem. The board needs diversity, or even more crucially, cognitive difference, to provide a perspective that goes beyond the gaps in board discussion. Digital boards advocate digital professionalism and provide constructive feedback to the management and each other set the tone for building the culture of learning and innovation. Digital means rapid change, the era of options, the expanded spectrum of innovation, and people centricity. All of these changes bring the significant opportunities and responsibilities for the new breed of digital BoDs, who might recommend the updated digital playbooks with the ultramodern digital philosophy and comprehensive insight to guide through the digital transformation from the boardroom to the front line.

The boardroom composition will directly impact how they lead and which tone they will set for the entire organization to follow. Like any type of leadership, BoD leadership needs to be future-oriented, steer the organization towards the digital journey with a clear vision, a solid strategic roadmap, and effective feedback system. The best fit for the board composition depends on the Board’s current makeup and culture, as well as which gap needs to be filled. The contemporary board should be highly adaptive, highly innovative, highly informative, and highly inclusive.

The Monthly “Leadership Master” Book Tuning: Inquisitive Leadership May. 2017

Leadership is complex yet simple: Complex in that there are so many traits and characteristics that are considered when evaluating a leader. Simplicity in that the substantial of leadership never changes, it’s all about future and change; direction and dedication; influence and innovation. The purpose of the book: Leadership Master - Five Digital Trends to Leap Leadership Maturity is to convey the vision of digital leadership, share the insight about leadership maturity, and summarize five emergent digital leadership trends Here is the monthly tuning of digital leadership.

                Inquisitive Leadership

“Leadership Master” Book Introduction Chapter IV: Inquisitive Leadership The business and world become over-complex and hyper-dynamic, how can leaders become more comfortable and confident in asking questions rather than giving answers. As in many instances, there is a perception that leaders should be the most experienced people and thus, have all of the answers. That’s a fallacy. Confidence comes from being comfortable in your role as a leader, value collective wisdom, not only provide answers but facilitate solutions. Should inquisitive leadership become a trend in the Digital Era

Three Question to assess a Person’s “Inquisitiveness” ? The world is transforming from personal computing into digital computing, from globalization into globality, from knowledge limitation to information abundance, the answer about yesterday is not as critical as the questions about the future. How to ask the right questions is not only just the raw intelligence to reflect human’s intellectual curiosity, it becomes the new skills need to be sharpened and focused on, to frame and co-solve the common problems and co-create the better world. So how to assess a person’s inquisitiveness and the wisdom of questioning?

An Inquisitive Board: How to Ask the Tough Questions: Generally speaking, Boards have a couple of main functions such as strategy oversight, governance practices, providing advice to executives, and resource provision, etc. So the Board should be knowledge enough to set broad strategic goals. They need to educate themselves by hearing different views about the organization, its environment, and strategic alternatives. Even the majority of BoDs are senior executives, they need to breakdown the “status quo,” present learning agility and show the inquisitiveness to ask the tough and right questions. The board represents the ownership and they really cannot do a good job if they don't have the courage and knowledge to question and challenge and set the broad strategic goals, culture tones, and the digital theme of boardroom itself. As an inquisitive BoD: How do you ask the tough questions

CIO as Chief Inquisitiveness Officer? At the industrial age, managers or leaders seem to be expected to have all answers, now businesses are moving to digital era with "VUCA" characteristics (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), although there’s mountain of data, and information is only a few clicks away, indeed, in many circumstances, finding an answer to a complex problem takes collective insight and collaborative effort. So, as senior level business executive, can, shall or how CIOs say “I don’t know”? How does someone in the highly visible position such as CIOs say "I don’t know" about key business issue or technology problems without compromising his/her authority, career and influence?.

Are We Entering the Digital Inquisitiveness Era? We are in a time of tremendous change, the dawn of digital age, the path to next level of innovation, also the era of confusion and information overload. Can we participate peacefully, look forward optimistically and engage constructively toward mutual benefit? Are we entering the inquisitiveness era to stimulate imagination momentarily?

The “Future of CIO” Blog has reached 1.8 million page views with about 3800+ blog posting in 59+ different categories of leadership, management, strategy, digitalization, change/talent, etc. The content richness is not for its own sake, but to convey the vision and share the wisdom. Blogging is not about writing, but about thinking; it’s not just about WHAT to say, but about WHY to say, and HOW to say it. It reflects the color and shade of your thought patterns, and it indicates the peaks and curves of your thinking waves. Unlike pure entertainment, quality and professional content takes time for digesting, contemplation and engaging, and therefore, it takes time to attract the "hungry minds" and the "deep souls." It’s the journey to amplify your voice, deepen your digital footprints, and match your way for human progression.

Setting Digital Mantras for Accelerating Digital Transformation

The dynamic digital organizations need to get away from letting things fall through and start creating “integrated wholes.”

Digital transformation is the long journey. Digital doesn’t mean just tear down all the old things in the previous era. In reality, digital means to strike the right balance between the new way and the “old way.” to do things, to strike the delicate balance. Organizations have to set fair principles, build the well-rounded capabilities, run up all important stages for reaching high digital maturity and reap the benefit via going digital with full speed.

Digital attitudes are about curiosity, being experimental and persistent: Being digital means to explore the new opportunities that fast-growing information and lightweight digital technologies could bring to the business. However, many senior executives are closed to the possibility that their established views could somehow be less right or perfect than the ones that got them to where they are now at the top. Further, people normally 'close' the boundaries of the system, so that less energy is transferred and, therefore, the fewer changes happen in the system, the business gets stuck somehow at the lower or middle level of the maturity, and people face difficulty to move out of the comfort zone. But the digital transformation is all about flow, information flow, idea flow, and mind flow. The differentiators between a digital leader and a laggard either at the individual or the organization level are mindsets and attitude - the intellectual curiosity, risk tolerance, creativity, changeability. So the adaptive digital attitude is to manage its complexity via organizational flexibility and agility enhancement. There is overwhelming practical evidence that a few underdog players in digital transformation are what make the most difference.

The challenge is to prioritize what you know about and keep an eye open for signs of things you don't know about: Due to the exponential growth of information and increasing speed of changes, many organizations experience “change fatigue,’ or the pains to break down the organizational bureaucracy and make the change happening smoothly. Therefore, it is important to understand what really matters and then put real horsepower behind these things, set the right priority to achieve well-defining goals. People must first be open to seeing and understanding that their status quo is probably anything but positives. It is only then that there is any real potential to change anything, such as processes, business models, or technology. Uncertainty, ambiguity, unpredictability, velocity etc., are the digital new normal, thus, digital strategy management is dynamic, it has to evolve the emergent business properties (opportunities/risks,e tc.)  and it can be difficult to find the right allocation of resources and talent to implementation of the plan while simultaneously monitoring feedback, managing risks, and meeting obligations to staff and customers. Digital strategy execution is not linear steps, but an iterative continuum.

Strike the right balance between orders (standardization) and ‘chaos’ (innovation): Digital transformation is all about balancing all major business elements impacting change: People, process, procedures and IT. And you have to maintain and fix any imbalance in those elements by managing them in a holistic way. For many businesses, especially legacy organizations, it is necessary to keep stable processes to run the business as always. But it is also important to do more with innovation. The business processes should be adaptively rational, to strike the right balance of ‘keeping the order,’ and sparking innovations, to move up the business maturity from functioning to delight. The challenge for organizations is to manage its portfolio of relevant cross-border strategic business competency and organizational interdependence with the appropriate mix of enabling organizational elements, engaging digital talent, balancing standardization and creativity, stability and changes.

Walkthrough “look, listen, question, understand, plan, test and collaboration” stages for digital tuning: Organizations and their people have to learn through their interactions with the environment. They act, observe the consequences of their actions, make inferences about those consequences, and draw implications for future action. In order to manage change and business transformation in a structural way, walk through the “look, listen, question, plan, test, collaboration” scenario. There is a need to delegate roles and responsibilities of the process, make each individual feel responsible for the success of the plan, have a strong honest communication plan in place, engage them actively and make sure that your new proposal solves their current problems, and provide the better working environment. Make your plan flexible and implement changes based on staff feedback.

Manage performance and manage your own attitude or everything else would be undermined: Change leadership and management matter: Be fair, be transparent, be energetic, have an open mindset, be reflective rather than reflexive, be an inspiring leader and a trustworthy partner. Most of the people, including leaders, often find themselves playing it safe and spending too much time trying to weigh risks and outcomes. Being willing to dive in rather than just dip your toes is sometimes needed even if you are scared. It is also important to build the culture of tolerance to encourage innovation. Change needs to be human-centered. People should know "where you are driving them to" and " what's on it for them."

Digital transformation is a long journey, organizations have to take a step-wise approach, continue assessing, fine-tuning and adapting. Without those steps, you could miss even a simple transformation; but with these logic steps, there is better chance to reach great success even in very challenging business transformation or restructuring. The dynamic digital organizations need to get away from letting things fall through and start creating “integrated wholes,”  ride above the learning curve and take the journey of digital transformation steadfastly.