Knowing what you are looking for is the key to finding innovation

Knowing what you are looking for is the key to finding innovation
Image Credit

As the person with the CIO job, you are probably under a lot of pressure to have your IT department be more innovative. CEOs everywhere are telling the press that in order for their company to be successful, innovation is going to have to happen within the company. This is all fine and good, I mean who doesn’t want to be more innovative? However, does anyone know what real innovation looks like?

5 Things To Look For When You Are Trying To Find Innovation

The rest of the company finally understands the importance of information technology, now they want us to be more innovative. However, you can’t find something if you don’t know what you are looking for. Innovation is like this – we’d all like to have more of it in our IT departments, but we’re not 100% sure what it looks like. Here’s a list of ways to identify innovation when you find it:

  • Innovation Looks Like Failure: an ugly little truth that a lot of CEOs and other people who may be pushing you to introduce more innovation into your department like to overlook is that failure is a big part of innovation. Innovation is all about creativity and being willing to try new ideas and as CIO you need to realize that a lot of those ideas probably won’t work out.
  • The ROI IS Ugly: The way that ROI is calculated for most IT projects just won’t work when you try to apply it to something innovative – the ROI is going to look very, very bad. Being innovative is all about running experiments – lots of them. Many of these experiments will fail. It can be all too easy to view the failed experiments as being wasted money. Don’t do this. These experiments are necessary stepping stones on your way to a real breakthrough.
  • Nothing Is Perfect: Even if the result of an innovative project is not failure, whatever it produces is probably not going to be salable. The reason for this is that more often than not what comes out of a project like this will be “just good enough”. This means that the v1.0 product won’t be ready for sale – there’s more work to be done here.
  • Innovation Can Be Boring: We all like to get caught up in the iPhone / Facebook outputs of past innovation efforts. Don’t. Instead you need to realize that more often than not innovation has to do with improving the way that things are being done today. No, this may not be revolutionary, but it can provide your company with long lasting results.
  • The Big Guys Have To Understand: In order for innovation to succeed at your company, the top management needs to understand what innovation looks like. Otherwise they will see you as a CIO who is in charge of a lot of projects that just seem to keep failing. If this is the case, then you won’t be CIO for long…!

What All Of This Means For You

Every person in the CIO position would like their IT department to be more innovative. However, the right place to start is to make sure that you truly know what innovation looks like in the first place.

More often than not innovation involves failure – and lots of it. The ROI on innovation can be difficult to measure because more often than not, innovation consists of running many experiments. Innovative solutions are often just “good enough” the first time around. Innovation is not all about iPhones – it often involves small improvements in boring things. Finally, for innovation to happen you’ll need the support of the company’s top management.

The good news is that yes, it is possible for you to make innovation happen in your IT department. However, you are going to have to keep your eyes open. Once you know what you are looking for, then you’ll recognize it when it you see it.

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

Question For You: What do you think the best way to measure innovation in your IT department would be?

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

“More innovation, please!” This is what CIOs have been hearing on a daily basis for the past few years. I think that we all understand why we’re being asked to help out, everyone understands the importance of information technology and they believe that this is where the innovation that will help the company out will come from. What CIOs need is just a little bit of help in discovering exactly how to go about growing some of that innovation stuff…


One of the responsibilities that we have as CIOs is to teach others about where they can find good jobs — jobs in IT and other fields. As kids go back to college this fall, it’s the perfect time to open their eyes to the job opportunities in the federal sector.

We all know how hard it is now to find a good job after graduation, yet the federal workforce is in need of bright, young lawyers, engineers, scientists, enforcement officers, and more! Check out the National Treasury Employee’s Union (NTEU) president’s tips on how to help your child prepare for and land a job in federal service.


How Can CIOs Find The Data Scientists That They Need?

September 10, 2014

Welcome to the era of big data. Now just exactly who is going to be working on all of that data? Now that everyone knows about the importance of information technology, it turns out that it takes a very special set of IT skills to get a large data set to tell your company the […]

Read the full article →

CIOs Need To Start To Create The New Face Of IT

August 27, 2014

The era of IT as we’ve come to know it is coming to an end. The IT department functions that have gotten us this far are now coming to an end. Keeping the company’s email systems up and running, implementing an big ERP project, and securing the corporate network from the bad guys is no […]

Read the full article →

Avon’s US$125M IT Software Project Mistake

August 20, 2014

As CIO we have a number of different tasks that the company is expecting us to do. However, there is one task that takes priority over all of these other takes: implementing large software projects. Over at Avon they just did one of these big projects and it has ended in failure. What did the […]

Read the full article →

4 Steps For Hiring The Right People – Every Time

August 13, 2014

As the person with the CIO job, one of your most important jobs is to hire the right team to help you run the IT department. The importance of information technology is understood by CIOs, but the importance of the hiring process all too often is not. CIOs will often try to perform this job […]

Read the full article →

5 Ways That CIOs Can Do A Better Job Of Communicating In The Office

August 6, 2014

In the 21st Century, all business seems to be done globally. However, in order for the person with the CIO job to be effective, you are going to have to be able to communicate in the old fashion way – face to face. What this means is that you will need to master the art […]

Read the full article →

5 Tips For Creating Effective Business Partnerships

July 30, 2014

As the person with the CIO job you are faced with a double challenge: despite the importance of information technology you have a limited budget and you have limited resources. This means that in order to get everything done that the rest of the company is expecting you to do, you are going to have […]

Read the full article →

6 Tips For Picking The Right Cloud Provider To Partner With

July 23, 2014

Face it, we are all going to move our company’s IT applications into the cloud eventually. The importance of information technology demands that we do this. Just exactly where that cloud is going to be located and who will be running it for us is another question. What questions does a CIO need to ask […]

Read the full article →

Perhaps The IT Help Desk No Longer Needed?

July 16, 2014

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, one of the biggest crazes to sweep through the world of IT has been the BYOD trend: “Bring Your Own Device” (to work) .The thinking is that workers have been purchasing and using such sophisticated electronic devices in their personal lives […]

Read the full article →