CIOs Seen as Obstacles to Innovation

By Allan Alter  |  Posted 09-13-2007 Print Email

"When you want to run a quick experiment ... don't go through the IT division because they are just going to tell you 'no' and it's going to take forever to get it done," strategy expert Gary Hamel says.

 

Strategy expert Gary Hamel, co-founder of the London Business Management Innovation Lab, sees CIOs playing a central role in redefining how companies will manage themselves in the coming decades, partly because of the importance of IT to the operations of business. Yet, he says, CIOs aren't doing enough to help lead this change to a new way to manage. Here's an excerpt from a conversation Hamel had with CIO Insight Executive Editor Allan Alter.

CIO Insight: What role will CIOs and IT organizations play in changing the way businesses manage?

Hamel: The people who are going to be at the center and make that change happen are members of the IT community. But this is going to be a challenge because most CIOs have been rewarded for driving operational costs down. I talk to CIOs everyday and they look at IT as a lever for improving operating efficiency and improving customer service. The challenge for IT people is to think about how the new technology of the Web--tagging, social networks. folksonomies, wikis--can be used to transform the work of management.

What role will CIOs and IT organizations play in changing the way businesses manage?

CIOs need an enhanced and enlarged view of their responsibility. Their biggest hurdle is to think differently about management and admit that traditional roles and prerogatives must change.

Technology enables almost everything that we are trying to do, so the single, biggest challenge is to do something with technology. We have to get the IT people from saying: "Well, you know, we can't do that. It's going to take six months to get it done. You have to put in a requisition." When you want to run a quick experiment, I tell people don't go through the IT division because they are just going to tell you 'no' and it's going to take forever to get it done. IT has become much of the wet blanket on innovation as the legal department.

It's not because people that aren't creative, it's just because our IT systems are mostly highly centralized in most companies. Change will take a long time.

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