The CIO Has To Know What Innovation Really Looks Like

by drjim on September 17, 2014

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

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

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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…

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