5 Ways CIOs Can Make Innovation Happen In Their IT Departments

Innovation will only happen if the CIO knows how to grow it
Innovation will only happen if the CIO knows how to grow it
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“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…

5 Ways To Grow Innovation

Innovation in an IT department does not just happen. Instead, as the person in the CIO position you are going to have to set the stage so that innovation can grow. There is no one magical thing that you can do to make this happen. Rather, there are a number of different things that you’ll have to do all at the same time. These things are:

  • Make Ownership Happen: Everyone likes to be recognized and in our modern workplace this happen all too rarely. When you want innovation to occur in your IT department, go out of your way to recognize an individual’s contribution to a project when it happens. This may be unexpected, but it will always be appreciated. When you start doing this, everyone will start to work even harder because they all want to receive your praise.
  • Welcome Ideas: The thing that you need to understand about innovation is that you can never tell where it will be coming from. Ideas do not flow from the top down; often the best ideas will come out of nowhere. This means that you need to stay open to receiving new ideas no matter where they originate.
  • Welcome New Products: Understand that the way that your company normally develops new products does not encourage innovation. Instead, stay open to ideas for new products. Work with your team to make prototypes and then run them by your customers to see if this is really what they want. If it isn’t, then let the product die. If it is, then you can active the company’s new product development process.
  • Pick & Choose Your IT: All too often in IT we are on the lookout for that one magical application that will solve all of our problems – can anyone say ERP? Instead of trying to tie your innovation teams down waiting for the ultimate IT product, allow them to pick and use the tools that best meet their needs right now. Yes, you’ll probably end up with a bunch of different software tools, but they’ll be the right tools for your team and they can be using them right now.
  • Fail: As always, one of the keys to being really innovative is not being afraid to fail. Make sure that your team knows that you expect them to fail. However, you want them to also understand that you need them to learn from every failure and to take what they’ve learned and apply it to their next effort.

What All Of This Means For You

The person with the CIO job generally feels very comfortable dealing with all of the technology related issues that come along with that job. It’s when we get into the gray areas, like how to make innovation happen in our department that things tend to get a bit more complicated. There is not just one thing that we need to do in order to make innovation happen, but rather several things.

Innovation has a lot to do with ownership – everyone needs to feel that they are responsible for something. Ideas are where innovation starts and they need to be allowed to grow. New products hold the secret to your company’s future and they need to be allowed to grow also. Use best-of-breed IT tools to solve today’s problems and worry about tomorrow’s problems later on. Finally, understand that you are going to fail and so make sure that you fail carefully.

Sadly, innovation is not something that an IT department can just “do”. Instead it’s going to be up to the CIO to grow innovation within your department. There’s not one magical thing that you can do, but rather several things that you need to be doing. Use these 5 suggestions and get your first crop of innovation growing!

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

Question For You: What the best way to recognize department members for being innovative without alienating everyone else?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If there is one fact of life that everyone who has the CIO job has had to learn to deal with, it’s that our IT budgets never seem to be big enough. However, it turns out that there is someone else in the company who does not have the same problem: the CMO. In fact, the CMO has so much money to spend, they are starting to build their own IT department. Is this something that you need to be worried about?