How CIOs can really become leading innovators

ey cio blog - child blowing bubblesAs we strive to innovate, it’s easy to become daunted by the idea that innovation must stem from some wonderfully creative new idea or concept, dreamed up in an inspired midnight powwow with Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom. The reality is usually far less romantic. In truth, the top innovators in the IT space are often those who adopt a structured, methodical approach.


Just look at Google, one of the most innovative organizations in the world. To this day, the company adheres fiercely to its 8 pillars of innovation. These include a defined approach to failure, a method for evolving ideas in situ, and a willing reliance on external collaboration.

If there is a formula for innovation, one of its primary inputs must be to ensure that the right conditions are in place. First of all, this means CIOs must embed innovation into the culture of IT. A number of basic building blocks can be used for this:

  • Foster tighter links with the business. Build a stronger relationship between IT and the company’s other business functions. At many firms, IT is currently isolated and poorly integrated with other departments.
  • Convince others to challenge IT. Encourage members of the IT department to act as sparring partners for the rest of the business. The aim should be for continual constructive interaction.
  • Take a proactive approach. Be consistently proactive, so that CIOs enhance the status of their roles until they are on a par with other members of the C-suite.
  • Free up time. Make sure that IT has the time and resources to come up with ideas, and that the CIO and others are able to follow them up.
  • Make it worth IT’s while. Rewarding staff for the contribution they make to innovation is a vital part of the mix to consider.
  • Consider ideas from everywhere. Aim to encourage open innovation — draw on ideas from external experts, partners, employees, and internal and external clients.

As we strive to become leading innovators, the most important thing for CIOs to remember is that we are not alone. Leading innovation is as much about creating an environment in which innovation can flourish, as it is about those fabled lightbulb moments. All of which means it’s worth stepping back for a moment to ask what systems and processes for innovation you’ve put in place?


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