Are CIOs in a position to foster innovation? Heck yes, opines Segway inventor Dean Kamen in this brief CIO.com piece, citing CIOs' technical chops and relative openness to change when compared to their colleagues in the executive suite.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with him, as personified by the anonymous executive in this Optimize article, who refers to his IT group as the "business prevention department."
Sure, some CIOs are risk-averse, which makes it difficult to them to follow one of Kamen's five recommendations: Taking risks is essential. Rather than throwing all caution out the window, however, CIOs would do better to try to achieve a balance between creativity and operational excellence. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Indeed, Kamen makes a strong case for balance, noting that his company, DEKA Research & Development, puts projects into two categories. One (pretty self explanatory) category is "Dean's Crazy Ideas," while a second category involves "well-defined problems where we've got a good solution and need an innovative way to make it work."
Some CIOs get so caught up in cutting costs and other operational duties that they shortchange IT's role in innovation. Experts interviewed in this itWorldCanada article say tech execs should focus on achieving the four factors necessary for IT-enabled innovation: collaboration, data access, cross-functional integration and process standardization and automation.
Just don't go overboard on the automation, advises Jan Kolbusz, in a Computerworld Australia article. Kolbusz, whose resume includes stints with several tech companies, cites two problems with adopting a set of practices or technologies across all business units in an effort to encourage innovation. This approach favors existing solutions that come from outside the company rather than internal solutions, and it asks all parts of the company to use the same solution, whether or not they share the same problems.