Five Counterintuitive Ways to Spur IT Innovation

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 02-07-2014
CIO, brainstorming

By Samuel Greengard

CIOs can boost their odds of success by considering these five approaches:

View resistance as an opportunity. By now, it's clear that consumer technology has turned IT upside down. It's tempting to bemoan the loss of control and complain about the growing challenge of dealing with shadow IT and a general defiance to abide by polices. But what this situation points out is that these policies interfere with the ability of employees to get their work done. Savvy CIOs spend time talking to others—from department heads to cubicle workers—to better understand connection and communications points. This helps them build an IT infrastructure that more closely fits today's business requirements.

Spend less time on IT. Most CIOs could benefit by spending less time addressing day-to-day IT issues. Yes, you read that right. The reason? Within many organizations, there's a notable disconnect between business goals and actual IT systems. The gap is growing as digital technologies such as mobility, cloud computing, social media and big data explode. The result? Websites don't work right, workflows become clogged and everything from project management to customer service bogs down. The solution? Carve out time to focus on the business and let it dictate IT.

Let your customers run the business. In reality, customers have always run the business. They're the ones who decide to buy products and services. It's up to organizations to meet the demands of the marketplace or perish. But, today, the stakes have been ratcheted up a few levels by social media, big data and next-generation analytics. With the right analytics tools in place, management can replace guesswork, hunches and gut decisions with data that illuminates trends and opportunities.

Let employees run the business. These days, executives in other departments and employees on the front lines of the business frequently have a better idea of what's taking place on the retail floor or in the customer service center than CIOs. They're also more up to date about consumer devices and apps. CIOs who rely on other departments to drive technology decisions are more likely to achieve success. Organizations and IT departments that offer collaboration and feedback tools—and solicit thinking from workers—are likely to see great innovations and ideas stream in.

Hire people that lack IT education and training. While it's essential to employ technical experts who know how to keep the lights on and the motor running, it's also critical to tap experts who can view business and IT in broader and deeper ways. This includes individuals with knowledge in areas as diverse as sociology, psychology, design, informatics and usability. In fact, some organizations now look to hire smart people who can apply broader knowledge to IT and learn the technical aspects as they go.

Do you have any suggestions besides these five?

About the Author

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight blog post, "Preparing for the Big Data Deluge," click here.