by Abbie Lundberg

The Voices of CIO

Oct 15, 20053 mins

The quickest way to get to know a magazine is by reading its columns. For an editor, inviting a columnist onto your pages is a bit like inviting them into your home. Some come for a single dinner party, providing company and conversation; others move in and stay on for a year or two, becoming valued friends.

We’ve welcomed a number of new columns and columnists to CIO during the past few years. Just looking at the names of the columns tells you a lot about who we are:

Total Leadership

From the Boardroom

Competitive Advantage

Peer to Peer

It’s All About the Execution

Executive Coach

Collectively, these titles speak to the subject of leadership and the business needs it must confront, typically addressing questions of human nature, motivation, and organizational design and dynamics. In this issue’s From the Boardroom column, for example, Jim Cash and Keri Pearlson argue that experimentation can generate the innovations that drive growth, yet often this doesn’t happen, because experimentation can feel like a loss of control over strategy formulation—which executives rightly believe to be part of their core responsibility.

Michael Schrage, a longtime proponent of business experimentation (see his fine book Serious Play), cautions in It’s All About the Execution that resistance to change will sabotage any innovation effort. But because the loci of resistance vary from one business to another, it’s critical to understand the “culture of resistance” that exists in your own organization.

Why is it so important to get a handle on change and innovation? As Schrage writes, “Good ideas are cheap; good implementations aren’t. Experience teaches that aspiring IT innovators don’t need better ideas that make more sense, but better implementations that make—or save—more money. If organizations can boost their ’return on innovation’ by investing more in good implementations than in good ideas, then that’s where their capital should go.”

Or as Cash and Pearlson put it, “In the current business climate…organic growth has become an important criterion for market valuation, and the rate of innovation is a key input for the rate of organic growth in large companies.”

CIO’s columnists are what good columnists ought to be: opinionated and direct. In last issue’s Executive Coach column, for instance, Susan Cramm wrote, “The phrase ’managing expectations’ is ridiculous and should be stricken from CIOs’ lexicons. It conveys false hopes that, through artful maneuvering, delivering less is OK. Nothing but food satisfies hunger, nothing but money pays the rent, and nothing but a ’yes’ satisfies IT’s business partners.” But opinions in a vacuum are just so much noise. Cramm goes on to devote two columns on ways to improve business-IT alignment.

What do you value most in a columnist? Who are your favorites? Perhaps you’d like to share your experiences and opinions about life on the business technology front lines. If so, drop me a note. We’re always looking for new guests—and new friends—to invite to the next CIO dinner party.