\u201cIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...in short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.\u201d \u2014 Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.\n\nMore on CIO.com\nFive Things Tom Perkins Has Learned About Business\n\nCan't Innovate? It's Management's Fault\n\nAs I was rereading this amazing opening sentence from one of the great works of English literature, I was struck by how apt a description it is of the state of business technology leadership today. Some noisy authorities are proclaiming that IT is a commodity; others, that it\u2019s the key to competitive advantage. Some say CIOs are little more than digital plumbers; others, that they\u2019re the new masters of a fiercely competitive global marketplace.\n\nIt\u2019s a wonder more CIOs don\u2019t suffer identity crises.\n\nIn fact, IT is both utility and innovation engine. But what does that mean for CIOs? Should the role be split, as Peter Drucker predicted it would years ago? Must a CIO choose between the critical work of operational excellence and the game-changing job of business strategy and differentiation? Can one person play in and lead in both realms? (If you know the answer to this, please drop me a note!)\n\nVC legend Tom Perkins advises CIOs to be, above all, cautious and cost-conscious (see \u201cFive Things Tom Perkins Has Learned About Business\u201d), while management guru Gary Hamel tells you to spend your time on the fringes of the Web because that\u2019s where the innovation is taking place (see \u201cCan't Innovate? It's Management's Fault\u201d).\n\nHow do you make sense of these kinds of disconnects?\n\nOr maybe you just have to stop worrying about making sense.\n\nHamel offers these tips for innovation:\n\nChallenge industry dogma.\n\nBe alert to early harbingers of big shifts in demographics, technology, regulation or whatever it is that most of your industry isn\u2019t paying close attention to.\n\nDiscover the hidden or unarticulated needs of your customers.\nThe most successful CIOs I know think that way and are cost-conscious too. For them, this simply may be the best of times.\n\nEditor in Chief Abbie Lundberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.