by Gary Beach

The Power of Your Employees to Innovate

Dec 01, 20062 mins

Driving innovation is job number one for CIOs in 2007. While innovation agendas may vary from company to company, the basic ingredients of innovation are transferable. But where do you find innovation? And what internal and external market forces might impede your innovation agenda next year?

Brian Truskowski, IBM’s CIO, outlined his perspective on those topics at a recent CIO conference.

Truskowski says that “the most significant source of innovative ideas” isn’t your system integrators or consultants, and it’s not your competitors, either. And the best ideas don’t come from the halls of academia. Rather, the most innovative ideas come from a rich source that’s all around you all the time: your employees.

I found that incredibly profound. How often does your company reach out to employees to ask them for their ideas on how the firm can be more innovative? Employees are your front line of engagement with partners and customers which, according to Truskowski, are the two next most significant sources of innovative ideas.

In other words, to be more innovative in 2007, harness employee power!

Truskowski went on to offer his thoughts on the biggest internal obstacles to an innovation agenda. For those, look no further than your CEO’s desk. Is your corporate culture unsupportive, hostile to new ideas, overly risk averse? That starts at the top. How about not enough dollars to do the job? That will put a crimp in any innovation agenda.

Looking outside the walls of your company, the biggest obstacle to being more innovative is governmental and legal restrictions. How much more innovative is your company because of Sarbanes-Oxley? Not very is our guess. Economic uncertainty is next on this list, followed by immature enabling technologies.

CIOs live in the world of operational and capital expenses. While most would say the fiscal fuel for an innovation agenda is in your capital expense budget, I would disagree. Rather, look to the salary line, not only of your IT department but for your entire firm, and institutionalize a way to tap into your people for ideas and recommendations on how you can be more innovative in the years ahead.

Gary Beach, Publisher