by CIO Staff

CIOs and the Innovation Question

Apr 22, 20053 mins

Elsewhere on you can find a CIORoundtable, where four CIOs discuss whether or not the United States is losing its innovation edge. The short version is that one says yes, one says no, one says maybe and the last one doesn’t answer the question. I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing what each one said—I haven’t talked to any of them myself and no one would ever answer our questions if they thought some know-it-all blogger was going to rip their responses.

But it is interesting to compare these responses to the comments my tech czar article has been getting. Much to my surprise, those responses have been overwhelmingly in favor of the position. And every comment seems to recognize that our innovation system is in trouble—maybe not today, or even tomorrow, but at some point in the future. Why are the sets of responses so different? The thing that stands out to me is the context. The people who commented on the article subjected themselves to 3,000 words on the state of U.S. technology policy, whereas the CIOs in the roundtable presumably did not.

I’ve seen this tech policy exposure dynamic before. One of the data points in the article is that 60 percent of CIOs want a technology policy and only 23 percent are opposed. Those numbers come from a survey by the CIO Executive Council that was released in February (full disclosure: I wrote the survey questions). Meanwhile a Quick Poll on from around the same timeframe asked almost the exact same question and found that 80 percent opposed a technology policy. I don’t think that the CIOs surveyed by the Council are any more or less enlightened than their visiting colleagues. Rather they were forced to read about technology policy—albeit in the form of questions—before they could answer.

What, if anything, does this mean? To me it indicates that technology policy is not a top-of-mind issue for CIOs. That won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has tilted at this particular windmill before; running an IT department doesn’t leave a lot of time to pursue academic concerns. But with each passing day the question of innovation becomes progressively less academic. It is encouraging to see that while this may not be a top-of-mind issue, it is one that CIOs are able and starting to engage in.

I hope to have an interesting follow-up early next week. Also, I apologize for the long time between posts. Yesterday was deadline day, and with that behind me I should be able to post more over the next few weeks.