CIOs who have achieved success with the basics of running their organization may have difficulty thinking about how to become an “Innovator”. While “Scramblers” and “Producers” (read more about them in the first post of this series) only differ in their ability to execute, the gap between “Producers” and Innovators requires a mind shift as the organization transitions from a tactical orientation to one that is strategic.
It is very difficult to become a true Innovator if you are spending much of your time chasing production problems or working significant overtime to hit project milestones. So, most organizations need to be solidly in the Producer box before they move to the Innovator box.
Organizations that make it to the Innovator box have a few common characteristics including:
A Focus on Results. Successful Innovators don’t just want to think great thoughts, they want to see their innovations being used in production. Too many aspiring Innovators have great ideas but spend most of their time thinking rather than implementing.
An Innovative Culture. All organizations have talented employees who have great ideas. Innovators make sure employees know their ideas are valued and encourage employees to take prudent risks.
A Spotlight on Innovation. Innovators make sure the organization is acutely aware of the innovative projects. A simple technique is to have monthly meetings to talk about the innovative projects and to communicate the results of these meetings to the entire organization.
An Openness to New Approaches. Innovators spend the time to become knowledgeable about IT trends and emerging technologies. At the same time, they make sure they are well grounded in the businesses they support. True innovation seldom starts with a technology solution that is in search of a business problem. Instead, Innovators focus on business problems and think about how new technology might provide a great solution. Innovators are able to think past traditional approaches and see how the paradigm can be shifted with a creative approach.
An Attraction to Any Great Idea. Innovators know they are not going to come up with most of the big ideas internally. If it is a great idea, it is highly likely someone else has already done it. Innovators have no problem seeking out other technology organizations for ideas and best practices. Organizations that fail to make it to the Innovator box often fall prey to the “not invented here syndrome” which heavily discounts any ideas that originate outside of the organization.
Champions in Executive Management. Becoming an Innovator requires capital to pilot and implement new technology solutions. It also requires an acceptance of some degree of risk as Innovators will be changing the technology they stabilized in order to get to the Producer box. Technology investment and a tolerance for minor disruptions requires outstanding communication with company executives so they understand the bigger picture and become champions for the technology initiatives.
Bob Ronan is an experienced IT executive with success in taking both troubled and successful organizations to the next level. He has a demonstrated record of excellence in the operation of technology systems, the delivery of projects and the innovative use of technology for competitive advantage while optimizing costs and engaging a global workforce.
Prior to retiring in 2013, Bob worked for Fidelity Investments (18 years) where he was a Senior Vice President. His last job was managing technology in support of the investment advisor business and, prior to that, he managed the technology for the 401k business and the web technology for Fidelity's institutional businesses. He also worked for Wellington Management (2 years as the Vice President responsible for all application development), Aetna (2 years as the Director responsible for securities accounting within the Investments Group) and Accenture (10 years as a Senior Manager focused on managing the application development and technical teams on very large engagements)
Bob holds an MBA from Carnegie-Mellon University and a BS from
Husson University. He is currently the Vice Chair of Husson's Board of Trustees
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Bob Ronan and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.