by Chris Potts

If nobody thinks you’re crazy, you’re not innovating

Oct 19, 20072 mins
IT Leadership

A question on Linkedin asks “What is the role of the CIO and the IT organization in driving business innovation?”. My answer: by example. Here’s the rest… Innovation begins at home. The first step a CIO needs to take is to innovate in the purpose and execution of her own role and strategy, and that of her people. With luck, some of her colleagues and staff will think she’s a bit crazy. If nobody thinks your being crazy, you’re not innovating. Mind you, if everyone thinks you’re crazy, then you’ve probably gone too far! (measure of success: do the right people think I’m a bit crazy and for the reasons I mean them to?) Following that, the CIO can think about influencing her peers’ innovations in ways that they may not be expecting. If she’s done the first stage well, she will have already provoked some reactions and changes in others. In particular, she should presume that her peers know more than she does these days about the potential for business innovations using technology. The CIO should focus instead on stimulating innovation that’s not directly related to technology – in the company’s operating model, for example – while capturing and channeling her peer’s technology-related innovations into the company’s investment plans. The CIO also needs to single out the members of her team who can stimulate business innovation alongside her. Typically, the place to start is with Enterprise Architects. They are trained to see the big picture, imagine how it could be different and then to influence the ideas and plans of other people. However, the CIO must make sure they let go of any IT-centric (and in some cases ideal-world) mindset before they get ‘out there’ with her, working with others. Finally, she mustn’t attempt to compete with external IT suppliers’ contributions to her peers’ thoughts on innovation based on their experiences of working with lots of companies all around the world. There’s no contest. The CIO can find her own, unique, innovation space – and this isn’t it. Note: the LinkedIn question was from Laurie Orlov, who also posts on