Thursday, January 4, 2018

CIOs as “Chief Intrapreneur Officer”: How to Sow IT Innovation Seeds via asking Open-Ended Questions

IT leadership needs to shift from command-control to consultative style, leading by participating and questioning.

Intrapreneurship is about creating a new venture from within an established company to look for changes and explore new opportunities. Many IT organizations become the change department of their company and they have to become the innovation engine of the business as well. Intrapreneur CIOs need to be dynamic people with vision, openness, inquisitiveness, growth and complexity mindset. Intrapreneur leaders practice entrepreneurship in the large enterprise to rejuvenate culture, advocate digitalization, inspire innovation and accelerate the speed of changes. They master at asking open-ended questions to sow innovation seeds and reimagine IT to reach the next level of organizational maturity.

Ask the positive “WHY NOT” question to challenge conventional wisdom: The digital organization today is hyper-connected and interdependent, like the switch in its digital ecosystem, keep connecting with its environment. The Digital CIOs need to be equipped with an intrapreneurs' mindset to expand their thinking boxes and getting a better understanding of the current boxes because IT nowadays has to work both in the system and on the system. IT leaders should have a clear vision of the big WHY behind each IT initiative, but also dare to ask “WHY NOT” to articulate the strategic rationale behind the venture. Intrapreneur leaders have an open mind, show flexibility, break outdated rules, and present resilience. They refuse to be bound by constraints and limitations. Exploring emerging opportunities or pursuing possibilities is the hallmark of digital innovation. Nowadays, IT is often the disruptive force of business transformation, intrapreneurship is about discovering the new path for digital transformation and balancing innovation with other organizational priorities.

Ask "WHAT IF" we do things in a different way or figure out an alternative solution:
The essence of innovation is made of trying new combinations of known things. It's the essence of progress. Intrapreneur-leaders deploy new ideas, new processes, new adventures to adapt to change. Intrapreneur leaders are not only self-motivated but also motivate teams to cultivate change capabilities via asking those open-ended questions such as “WHAT IF,” they have the courage to lead boldly and build the culture of risk tolerance. Intrapreneur leaders often have balanced viewpoints to perceive success and failure objectively. Such mental toughness will help an organization become more resilient to gain benefit by doing things differently. They do not just get stuck at “we always do things like that” mentality or a set of best practices but develop the next practices, figuring out which of them it makes sense to challenge and then leveraging creativity tools (exploring, divergence, convergence) to arrive at a useful new box and figure out an alternative solution.

Ask "HOW ABOUT " to explore the new dimension or making things better for the whole: Being innovative means you need to get used to stepping outside the old box to unfamiliar territory, you discover and explore your own path. An intrapreneur leader asks the questions anyone would want to ask, if only you had his/her perspective. Modern businesses have to make many tough choices in its growth-maturity journey, either making decisions in strategic planning, talent management or innovation explorement. After clarifying “why or why not; what or what if” part of the scenario, often the field dwindles when the discussion comes to “how.” But an innovative IT leaders can keep opening their mind, bring insightful perspective to stimulate further brainstorming, add a new dimension of visions in making the right choice for balancing the business’s short-term gain and long-term win, take divergent path to reach the vision, break the old rules and setting digital principles, self-motivated and motivate others to explore new dimensions or understand the bigger picture, and figure out the solution better for the whole.

Innovation is a mindset and a prerequisite to doing sustainable business these days. IT leadership needs to shift from command-control to consultative style, leading by participating and questioning. The CIO has to foresee, anticipate business needs for information, be inquisitive to ask open-ended questions for either collecting customers' feedbacks or stimulating the creativity of IT staff. The goal is to build the culture of learning, sow more innovation seeds to run a digital powerhouse.


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