Forward-Looking CIOs Lead Through Innovation

Albrecht Ricken and Sandra Thiel

Recently I was speaking with a CIO who joked that his colleagues who do not rethink their organizational role will soon find their job title changing from “chief information officer” to “career is over.”

Perhaps it’s gallows humor, but he was right. The CIO should play a dramatically different role. Today’s successful CIO is leading innovation. He or she creates an environment where everyone understands that digital transformation touches every area in an organization. This new CIO is a vocal advocate for the important role all employees play in innovation. He or she believes and encourages innovation that begins with the business model and trickles down to the way people and things interact.. The CIO challenges the status quo and leverages powerful new technologies to foster change in business models, business processes, and how work is done.

In a sense, the acronym should change … to chief innovation officer.

The growth of software-as-a-service means that most CIOs today are managing fewer system installations and fewer large business applications. The wise CIO seizes this opportunity to reposition himself or herself as a driver of digital innovation.

Digital transformation is happening in every industrial sector, propelled by the rapid growth of the Internet of Things, RFID, Big Data, and hypercomputing.

In today’s fast-paced environment, there is not a single area in an organization that can claim not to be subject to innovation and responsible for pushing innovation. No longer can innovation be delegated to the R&D division.

The CIO is ideally poised to lead an innovation process that is inclusive and collaborative, not just within the company but within its ecosystem.

We recognize that there are often significant barriers that impede innovation, including:

  • Volume management. All too often, a company will solicit ideas for change, but not have the infrastructure in place to support what comes next. Staff become overwhelmed without a clear process for sorting, organizing, and culling ideas.
  • Idea evaluation. Particularly in larger organizations, an idea may germinate that needs to be fleshed out by internal experts. Finding and engaging those experts can be challenging, causing some ideas to flounder.
  • Perceived lack of empowerment. Hierarchies and job titles can dissuade some employees from becoming involved in the innovation process due to intimidation or a feeling that their ideas are not worthwhile.

Those are daunting barriers. Overcoming them is why organizations need an innovation management platform. Such platforms need to empower organizations to identify, refine, assess, and select ideas that create marked change, are disruptive, and lead to breakthrough products and services.

These platforms need to empower users throughout an organization to suggest and rate ideas, collaborate and refine those ideas, and come together across silos and positions to push new, visionary concepts forward. They need to effectively manage hundreds of ideas, match similar ideas, and connect teams across the globe to further spell out concepts.

The CIO sees perhaps better than anyone the speed at which technology is changing business. Waiting two to three years for ideas to become reality is no longer possible, because competitors are apt to get there sooner. Those companies that continue to follow siloed, heavily layered ideation structures are likely to be left behind. The effective CIO is one who can break down internal barriers and create a foundation in which ideas are encouraged, molded, and moved to adaptation faster, unburdened by bureaucratic approval layers.

Innovation continues to propel high-functioning organizations forward. For the CIO, becoming the chief innovation officer allows him or her to drive forward momentum in the C-suite and throughout an organization.

Learn more about what it means to run Live Business. See how Beiersdorf tripled the number of submitted ideas within two months of implementing innovation management framework, then check out the innovation management assessment to see where you stand.