When things aren\u2019t going so well, it\u2019s human\n nature to focus on whatever\u2019s closest at hand, what one\n knows best, to look for solutions there. So when IT is asked to\n contribute to business innovation, it\u2019s natural for CIOs\n to turn to their staff and colleagues for ideas and to launch\n internal innovation projects.But that response would be shortsighted. In a study\n conducted by IBM of 765 CEOs around the world, 75 percent said\n that collaboration and partnering outside the company are very\n important to innovation, while internal R&D has become much\n less so. The study cited business partners and customers as top\n sources of innovative ideas. Unfortunately, only half of the\n CEOs said their companies were collaborating beyond a moderate\n level.Data from Egon Zehnder, the global leadership assessment and\n recruiting firm, illuminates another gap. Based on analysis of\n some 25,000 executives\u2019 competencies, CIOs fall short in\n both market knowledge and customer focus\u2014another reason\n they turn inward when confronted with the challenge of\n innovation.CIOs know that business innovation trumps everything these\n days. In our 2007 \u201cState of the CIO\u201d survey (you\n can download the data via a PDF file here, respondents said \u201cenabling business innovation\u201d would be the way in\n which IT would have the greatest impact on the business in the\n year ahead, unseating \u201creducing costs\u201d from the top\n spot for the first time in years.But CIOs are focusing on the wrong things to deliver on the\n innovation goal. When we asked how they spend their time, only\n 17 percent put \u201cinteracting with business partners or\n customers\u201d in their top five. Asked to name the top three\n personal skills most pivotal for success in the CIO role, only\n 15 percent said business knowledge and understanding industry\n trends.What all this says to me is that CIOs need to get out\n more.Get out of IT. Do a rotation in another\n part of the business.Get out of the office. Go work with your\n customers; have your team do the same.Get out of the country. Go work at one of\n your company\u2019s international sites.In the future, there will be two types of IT heads: IT\n managers, with a purely operational set of responsibilities,\n and true CIOs, who will be at the forefront of developing\n technology-enabled strategies for the business. Taking a\n parochial view of your role will pretty much guarantee you an\n operational future.