by Kim S. Nash

Seeking Innovative Ideas? Read Something Quirky

Apr 10, 20123 mins
InnovationIT Strategy

CIOs are under pressure to come up with innovative ideas for the business. One way is to subscribe to a few obscure publications (print or online) that will trigger ideas outside your usual thinking patterns.

A guest post from Mitch Betts, executive editor of CIO magazine:

CIOs are under pressure to come up with innovative ideas for the business. One of the best ways is to get out of the office and work on the front lines with sales reps and customers. Another way is to subscribe to a few obscure publications (print or online) that are outside your usual reading material. Why? Because they’ll give you ideas that are outside your usual thinking patterns.

There’s much academic research to support the notion that innovation comes from cross-disciplinary mashups – people with different kinds of expertise (like biology and computers) getting together. As one academic paper put it: “In the knowledge economy, it is often the case that the right knowledge to solve a problem is in a different place [than] the problem itself, so interdisciplinary innovation is an essential tool for the future.”

I’ll give you an example of how this works in my little world. One of several obscure publications I get is a monthly magazine called Quirk’s Marketing Research Review, about the market research industry. Now, I don’t officially cover that topic. But I still glean ideas from the magazine that are useful in the world of CIOs. Seems impossible, I know, but the best way for me to prove this is to show you how I quickly dissected the latest issue of the magazine – in just a matter of minutes – to look for CIO angles. It’s my own little data-mining exercise. I simply scan the magazine for interesting info-nuggets and ask probing questions about how they could be applied to the CIO role.

  • Page 10: Two-thirds of consumers switched companies as a result of bad customer service last year. Useful stat for a board presentation about how IT can improve customer service?
  • Page 14: Consumers ranked the following as the most annoying time-wasters in their lives: being placed on hold, waiting in lines and traffic. How can we use technology, or process redesign, to make those people happier?
  • Page 16: A new software suite called ShopperIQ allows manufacturers and retailers to test what-if scenarios about product shelf location, pricing and packaging strategies to predict shopper behavior in a simulated shopping experience. Could this save money over live, in-store testing?
  • Page 18: Another use for tablets: Hand them out at focus groups, where consumers can evaluate a new product concept on the iPad — and then software automatically compiles the results. Faster way to get focus-group results than manual methods?

I could go on, but you get the idea. I’m not trying to promote that particular magazine – it’s just a random example. (I also look at “Risk Management Monitor” and an economics newsletter. Call me crazy.) To avoid info-overload, pick only a few off-topic publications, blogs or RSS feeds. Of course, we want you to keep reading CIO magazine and But what else are you reading to trigger new ideas?