Three Ways CIOs Can Overcome The Inhibitors Of Innovation

Orlando Cintra

One of the things that puzzles me as I work with CIOs throughout Latin America and the Caribbean is why so many allow themselves to be trapped by transactional thinking. Why do they focus on day-to-day tasks and allow innovation to impact only a fraction of their operations?

It’s clear that companies can achieve significant results by being open to the transformative power of digital innovation, but making changes to allow for this transformation has proven to be challenging for some.

For these companies, leaders typically view technology primarily as a tool of productivity and cost reduction. But the world has changed. Digital disruption is pervasive, intensifying the need for all organizations to embrace digital transformation – including small and midsize businesses as well as large enterprises and the public sector. How can you let go of your old ways? Read on for three suggestions, and be inspired by one organization that has embraced digital innovation with great success.

1. Be willing to assume some risk

As compelling as the use cases may be, companies in general are afraid to fail. They want to innovate, but to do so with a 90% chance to succeed. They want to see other companies innovate, then follow suit and duplicate their ideas. That’s not innovation; that’s imitation.

This hesitancy is understandable. If it’s not in your organization’s DNA to innovate, then overcoming inertia is that much more difficult. But you need to be willing to take calculated risks to achieve the greatest rewards. History has proven this true time and again.

2. Don’t wait for the perfect time to get started

Another common inhibitor is the tendency to try to fix all the problems first. Management wants operations to be flawless before shifting the focus to innovation. That’s not reality. Our world is constantly changing, our customers are constantly changing, and the rate of change is constantly accelerating. If you wait to resolve 100% of your problems, then you’ll never get started.

3. Be inspired by the innovators

Who are the innovators? They’re the companies that realize that the time is now – whether that means facing risk or failure. They look to create new business models and see how technology can enable them. They get the process started and make adjustments as business needs change.

Many organizations in Latin America are embracing digital innovation, but that’s happening more slowly than in other regions. The good news is that momentum is starting to build.

For example, the City of Buenos Aires is using technology to modernize its infrastructure and improve the livability of the city. City administrators can monitor citizen complaints on social media, check in with sensors and work plans – and provide a quick and informed response. The city government also implemented technology to help predict and prevent flooding from the River Plata.

Because of the city’s aging drainage infrastructure and dense population, flooding has historically been an ever-present threat, clogging storm drains, bringing normal activity to a halt, damaging property, even costing lives. But now, with the ability to analyze real-time sensor data from storm drains and use mobile technology to pinpoint flash points, the City of Buenos Aires is well-prepared to mitigate risks caused by heavy rains. And other technology supports infrastructure maintenance, management of complex contractor and supplier relationships, and better citizen services that help improve quality of life.

The City of Buenos Aires is just one example of an organization that is embracing innovation. In the months ahead, I’ll share additional stories of others that are doing the same. Meanwhile, have a look at our e-book, SAP Leonardo Digital Innovation System Capabilities & Success Stories, and SAP Cloud Platform customer showcase stories.


Orlando Cintra

About Orlando Cintra

Orlando Cintra is senior vice president of Innovation and SAP Cloud Platform for the Latin America & Caribbean region, supporting companies in their digital transformation roadmap. He helps companies take the right journey for the future, where digital transformation is the main – and current – focus in many markets and industries, using innovation as a key element of disruption and business value creation. An author and speaker, Orlando has more than 20 years of experience in IT and business in leadership positions with SAP, HP, and Informatica Corporation. He holds an Information Technology degree and specialization in Leadership from Harvard Business School, and lives in São Paulo, Brazil.