Sunday, February 4, 2018

The CIO as “Chief Innovation Officer”: Is Innovation your Daily Leadership Practice?

Increasingly, modern CIOs look to play a role in supplementing the business vision with technology as the accelerator and innovator. 

Nowadays, many people and organizations are talking about innovation, but very few practice creativity persistently and manage innovation effectively. When everyone just follows the industry best practices to run IT for “keeping the lights on,” there is no way IT can stand out. The challenge is getting out from the daily burdens and spends more resources and time on innovation-related activities. The CIO as “Chief Innovation Officer” should ask themselves: Is innovation your daily practice? How can you encourage creativity and inspire innovation?

Are you inquisitive to ask great questions: It is simply not sufficient for CIOs to “Keep the lights on ” only. A digital CIO is able to inspire best-ever individual and team performance in support of the organizational mission while ensuring that each member of the community has the support for “doing more with innovation.” Often, creative leaders don’t follow the old rules, they have their own way to stimulate creativity and manage innovation effectively. People consciously or subconsciously protect their status quo which is the very obstacle to stifle innovation. It is absolutely necessary for leaders to create discomfort and get others thinking. Innovation is to have a new perspective on things. One of the digital leadership capacities is to get people out of their comfort zone to meet challenges, learn new skills, and experiment alternative ways to do things. To lead boldly, an innovative CIO should be inquisitive, keep asking thought-provoking questions, such as “Why Not,” or “What if,” to encourages IT teams to think “out of the box,” explore the new alternative to solve either old problems or emergent issues creatively. Being able to become innovative or close is being able to think, and create new things based on the business or the customer’s needs, true knowledge is the optimal solution. The CIO as “Chief Innovation Officer,” plays an important role in building a culture of innovation, encourage free thinking and experimenting, have the right dose of creative tension and healthy competition to spark innovation.

Are you actively looking for the innovation hot spots in the business? Compared to nimble startups, many well-established organizations are struggling with innovation, due to silo thinking, legacy technologies, inefficient processes, change inertia, or overly rigid hierarchy. Innovation happens at the intersection of people and technology. IT has a great opportunity here to lead, and CIOs as “Chief Innovation Officers,” should actively look for the innovation hot spots in the business. The essence of innovation is made of trying the new combination of known things to create new stuff and figure out the better way to do things. Rather than wait for businesses to tell IT what they want, IT needs to proactively work with the business and partners upon the great new digital technologies which can change the business for better and fuel innovation engine. It’s important to build clear processes, understand the linkage required to work horizontally across departments, and take a holistic approach to managing innovation. IT plays a crucial role in scaling up innovation practices, amplifying innovation effect, building up the innovation framework which enables the business to manage innovation in a structural way.

Are you dare to fail and can you fail forward: An innovation happens when you change the game; you bring a different twist to what is currently established and perceived. Innovation has a very high failure rate, and failure is part of innovation. Without failures, without the blossom of innovation. You should not be afraid of the failure and develop the capability to manage risks. In the world of innovation, you will fail more often, many more times, than success. The point is to avoid the repetitive mistakes and focus on lessons learned from failures, without having failures that are too frequent or too expensive. The CIO’s great attitude for innovation is to be fearless to experiment the new things and take a new adventure but to be “paranoid” and manage innovation more systematically. The CIO as “Chief Innovation Officer,” should be able to manage a healthy innovation portfolio with the right mix of incremental innovation and breakthrough innovation. It is a balancing act to have enough failure and an environment that encourages learning from failure quickly and cheaply. Failure builds knowledge and resilience. Part of being a leader is about taking the calculated risk and failing forward for exploring the “art of possible.”

“Chief Innovation Officer,” is one of the pertinent titles for digital CIOs today. Increasingly, modern CIOs look to play a role in supplementing the business vision with technology as the accelerator and innovator. So, the growth mind, courage, inquisitiveness, versatility, and egoless adaptation are all important for enforcing innovation practices and improving the digital leadership maturity.


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