Without innovation, nothing happens.
People talk about innovation but they too often take it for granted. Innovation can drive
economic growth, just like cell phones, PCs and the Internet did. It also increases the
quality of life, with anything from new gadgets for entertainment to new tools for medical
procedures. We are at a point where we are faced with many challenges: the economic crisis,
energy dependence, national security. None of those problems will get solved without
innovation driving the solution.
CIOs have an important role to play here.
It’s easy to confuse the results of innovation and innovation itself. Right now, we are
reaping the benefits from decades of innovation. Think iPods, Internet startups and the
like. But we’re not planting new seeds. Sustainable innovation is the result of the
combination of research, development and the application of science and technology. It also
includes the communication between those communities. CIOs have an important role to play
here. They drive innovation by making their business partners aware of what new technologies
have to offer; they also support it by being responsive to their business partners’ needs.
CIOs also can encourage innovation by communicating needs to vendors and trying new products
Taking risks and learning from failure is part of the process. You shouldn’t aim to fail,
but you should be able to accept failure. In order to create a setting for innovation to
occur, you have to be willing to question others and to share information to facilitate the
exchange of ideas. The key to creating an environment that maximizes innovation is to create
a balance of these points. Leaders set the tone for the entire organization, and their
willingness to self-assess and acknowledge failure is critical.
The business world has become short sighted.
Business has become significantly more risk-adverse. Longer-term innovation requires
investing in things that might fail. So by definition, investing in innovation is not
efficient. There also has been so much emphasis on compliance that the amount of CIO
mindshare and the money to invest in new things is less than it was.
Innovate through the recession.
The current economic crisis makes it all the more important for companies and their CIOs to
focus on innovation. CIOs need to be innovative in figuring out how to do more with fewer
resources. They also need to make sure they are still investing in the future, so when we
come out of the recession, they emerge stronger. It’s clearly a very challenging time for
all leaders, including CIOs, to carefully balance current needs with a eye on the future.