Does Your Company Need An Innovation Lab?

by drjim on March 1, 2017

Is an innovation lab what your company needs to keep its edge?

Is an innovation lab what your company needs to keep its edge?
Image Credit: Amy

I’m hoping that the company that you work at is currently doing well. Now let’s talk about the future. None of us know what’s coming our way down the road and that can be just a bit scary. For firms that may not be in the high-tech sector, they understand the importance of information technology and they realize that change can happen almost overnight (think of the arrival of Uber) and they don’t want to get caught flat footed. What to do? One thing that a lot of CIOs at these firms are doing is setting up “innovation labs” in order to attract the best young talent and get to work on the problems that they are going to need to solve sooner rather than later.

What Is The Purpose Of An Innovation Lab?

No matter what your firm’s primary line of business is, taking the time to set up and establish an innovation lab can be done for a wide variety of reasons. A number of firms who establish labs like this choose to set their labs up out in either San Francisco or Silicon Valley. The reason that they do this is because this is where they are going to be able to find the technical talent that they’ll need to staff their labs. Additionally, their lab will be operating in an environment with other novel startups and they may be able to find other firms to work with.

A well-run innovation lab can serve to both develop technologies that the company can use as well as to create business strategies. The hope is that this will help the company to recruit new talent. When the lab creates a new innovation, the lab can be used as a place to showcase new technologies that the company is looking into. The goal is for the person in the CIO position to make these innovation labs look and feel like a startup. To accomplish this, they will often have brightly colored offices and will offer catered breakfast and lunches.

Having the person who has the CIO job create an innovation lab is all good. However, there is a fundamental question that is currently unanswered. Since most of the innovation labs that currently exist have only been around for a couple of years, the big question is if they can cause change. They are, after all, part of a much larger company and what everyone is hoping is that the change that the labs create can be applied to the bigger company and somehow create a change in how they go about launching new products.

Drawbacks And Challenges To Running An Innovation Lab

Creating a new innovation lab is not the way that companies always went around trying to bring innovation into their companies. Back in the old days, more often than not outside consultants were brought in to work on specific projects. This is all changing now. The outside consultants are on their way out and they are being replaced with teams of inside engineers. Part of the reason for this change is because CIOs are not only trying to keep up with the latest in new technology, but they are also trying to create a new identity for their company as being a cutting edge innovator.

Creating an innovation lab is generally considered to be a good idea. However, the way that the lab is created can have drawbacks When a lab is created outside of the flow of the main company in order to streamline its operations, this can end up causing problems. When an innovation lab is considered to be separate from the rest of the company, it can end up having very little power. This means that any innovations that it creates may not be able to find their way back into the company in order to influence how it operates.

There are alternatives to going to all of the effort of creating a full-sized innovation lab. Instead of doing this, firms can create a startup accelerator that they then staff with executives that have been given a six week break from their normal jobs to instead work on a single project. This short period of time allows the incubator to recreate the atmosphere of a startup and can break up any bureaucratic inertia that may have been created.

What All Of This Means For You

No matter what industry your company is involved in, there’s a good chance that at some point in time in the future there may be a technological innovation that occurs that changes the playing field. If your company wants to continue to thrive and survive then they are going to have to find a way to stay on top of all of the changes that are happening in their industry. In order to accomplish this, CIOs are setting up innovation labs.

These innovation labs are often located out on the West coast in either San Francisco or Silicon Valley. The offices are decorated in bright colors and they attempt to recreate the atmosphere of a start-up. The hope is that an innovation lab can provide the rest of the company with both new products and a new way of launching those products. Innovation labs are replacing the old way of bringing in outside consultants. However, you need to be careful to integrate the lab into the rest of the company. If a full innovation lab is too much for your company, the CIO can choose to just create a startup accelerator.

There are a lot of different ways to go about trying to stay up on changing technology. CIOs have a responsibility to make sure that their company does not get blind-sided by new technologies that could turn their industry upside down. By creating an innovation lab and then using what it creates, CIOs can make sure that no matter what industry they are in, they can be cutting edge!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: If you were to create an innovation lab, how would you go about measuring if it was being successful?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, you’ve generally got a lot on your mind. You’ve got budget issues, staffing issues, working with other department issues and everything else that has to do with the importance of information technology. You really don’t have a lot of control over these things. However, there are some issues in your life that you’d like to feel that you do have control over. One such issue would be the quality of the software that your teams deliver. However, if you are like most of us, more often than you’d care to admit, all too often when your team ships new software out to the field, it doesn’t work correctly. Can’t someone do something about this for you?

{ 0 comments }

In order to keep your best workers, you need to know what they are thinking

In order to keep your best workers, you need to know what they are thinking
Image Credit: Nicolas Raymond

If you are doing what a CIO is supposed to do, then you’ve spent time and energy assembling the best IT department that you possibly can. You’ve weeded out the non-performers, replaced them will skilled IT professionals, and now you feel as though your IT department is ready to take on the world! However, there is just one fly in your ointment – how are you going to take on the world if your best workers leave your IT department?

Discovering How IT Workers Feel

If you want to be able to hang on to the workers that you have, then you are going to have to find a way to understand how they currently feel about their jobs. The good news is that you are not alone in wanting to find a way to do this: IBM, Twitter, and a host of other companies are all interested in getting the same answers that you are looking for. This has been something that the person with the CIO job has wanted to understand for a very long time. What’s changed is that it may now be possible to do thanks to the arrival of big data.

The power phrase that all of these companies are using when they talk about trying to gain a better understanding of what their employees are thinking is called “sentiment analysis”. The hope is that by using this type of software, CIOs can discover how their employees feel about such things a diversity programs and their prospects of being promoted. The software works by processing a large amount of data. This data is collected from such varied places as internal comments on blog posts and the responses that employees give to open-ended questions on those employee surveys that we all fill out all of the time.

The purpose of this software is to allow CIOs to sort through the 100s or 1000s of pieces of information that together can give them an impression of what their employees are thinking. What CIOs would like to learn from all of this is where they can make the changes that will keep their staff motivated and contribute to them staying on board.

Using The Knowledge That You’ve Gained

One of the biggest problems that the person in the CIO position has faced in the past has not been the lack of data. We’ve always had a lot of that. If your company conducts an annual survey of its employees, then you may find yourself awash in answers to questions that reveal how your employees feel about the company. This is clearly a case of having a lot of data and very little knowledge. The new sentiment analysis software can help out here. What the software can do is process your open-ended survey questions and blog postings in order to analyze the language that your workers use. The goal is to analyze their underlying emotions including disappointment, frustration, or even anger.

There is a major issue that CIOs have to deal with regarding employee privacy. The general thinking is that these new types of software tools can be applied to open forums where employees should have no expectations of privacy such as company blogs. The feedback that has been provided to a company survey is another area where the information provided is fair game for additional analysis. What is currently considered to be off limits is company email. Yes, great things could probably be learned, but it could be tied to a specific employee and they never counted on having their email analyzed.

One of the richest sources of information for sentiment analysis software are social media outlets. It’s important that the information collected from these sources be made anonymous before being processed. It turns out that computers have a very difficult time detecting sarcasm and humor. This means that a human being will still be required to interpret the results of the data analysis. CIOs need to remember that understanding what their employees are thinking is really only a first step. Once you know the answer to this question, you are going to have to take action.

What All Of This Means For You

Staffing an IT department can be a full time job because of the importance of information technology. It turns out that once you’ve accomplished this task, you are now faced with the next step in the process: finding ways to keep your staff from leaving. This has been a challenge for CIOs for quite some time; however, now with the arrival of big data and sentiment analysis software we can now get the answers we’re looking for.

The way that these systems work is to collect a great deal of data from publicly available sources within the company. These can include company blogs and responses to annual company employee surveys. The software has the ability to analyze the words that have been used and determine the emotions that the employees are feeling. CIOs need to keep in mind that detecting what their employee’s mood is is just the first step, then they need to take action.

New tools are now available that can give you a greater insight into what the members of your IT department are currently thinking. This is critical information for a CIO to have. Take the time to understand what the mood of your department is and then use it to make your department even better than it is today!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: If your analysis of your IT department’s mood reveals that many people are thinking about leaving, what action should you do?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m hoping that the company that you work at is currently doing well. Now let’s talk about the future. None of us know what’s coming our way down the road and that can be just a bit scary. For firms that may not be in the high-tech sector, they understand the importance of information technology and they realize that change can happen almost overnight (think of the arrival of Uber) and they don’t want to get caught flat footed. What to do? One thing that a lot of CIOs at these firms are doing is setting up “innovation labs” in order to attract the best young talent and get to work on the problems that they are going to need to solve sooner rather than later.

{ 0 comments }

Should The Salaries In Your IT Department Be Known By All?

February 15, 2017

Just in case you were not dealing with enough big issues, it turns out that there is another one that just might be headed your way. This one has to do with just exactly how much you are willing to let everyone in the IT department know about your employment agreement with everyone else in […]

Read the full article →

Just Exactly How Important Is Diversity In Your IT Department?

February 8, 2017

I’m not sure if you’ve been following this story in the news, but out in Silicon Valley all of those famous companies that you’ve been hearing about, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. have just gotten done taking a look at their global workforces. What they wanted to discover is just exactly what kind of mix of […]

Read the full article →

It Turns Out That Users Are Your Biggest Security Problem

February 1, 2017

As the person with the CIO job, it’s your job to understand the importance of information technology and keep the company’s networks secure. We invest a great deal time, effort, and cash into buying and configuring devices to accomplish this. We also pay for a great deal of training of our staff on what they […]

Read the full article →

What Should CIOs Do About Their Shadow IT Department?

January 25, 2017

As the CIO of your company’s IT department, you’d like to think that you know what’s going on in your departmentbecause of the importance of information technology. I mean, you control the budget for your department and everyone in the department works for you so it makes sense that if you don’t fund it, then […]

Read the full article →

Questions CIOs Need To Ask When Building New Data Centers

January 18, 2017

As the person with the CIO job, one of the most expensive decisions that you may ever make will have to do with the decision to build a new data center for your company. For all the talk of the benefits of “the cloud”, most companies still have data and applications that they fell most […]

Read the full article →

How To Hold On To Your Best IT Workers

January 11, 2017

I guess if you take the time to think about it, being the person with the CIO job is a lot like being the coach of a football team. You think about the players that you need, you interview a lot of people, pick a few of them to join your team, and then the […]

Read the full article →

What Does A CIO Need To Be Doing Now To Prepare For The Future?

January 4, 2017

Being a CIO is a demanding job. It seems as though there is too much to be done almost every day. There are people to be managed, vendors to be talked to, and technology decisions that because of the importance of information technology will affect the entire company that have to be made each and […]

Read the full article →

Is Tough Talking The New Correct Way To Communicate?

December 14, 2016

When you are at the office, how do you interact with people? I suspect that in your office there are smart people, dumb people, nice people, and not so nice people. You probably grin and bear it – you try to treat everyone the same way and you try to be nice to everyone. What […]

Read the full article →