Defining Innovation

“Business innovation is in many ways a team sport,” said Hoque. “It’s not a one man show. So, from that point-of-view, (CIOs) have to be part of that team who brings a different way of looking at things—with a deep understanding of technology and information usage, but from a business point-of-view and have the ability to institutionalize it so it becomes a sustained innovation not just a one time innovation.”

In short, you have to become a problem solver. But, not a technology problem solver. Hire the people to do that. You have to become a business problem solver if you want to carry around the title of Innovator. If you take this approach you will quickly learn what the business needs, wants, desires and, instead of coming up with reasons why it can’t be done, you will be part of the team that figures out how it can be done.

“For innovation to happen, you have time to think about fundamental, change-the-game change,” agrees IT Futurist Thornton May. “Right now, we have a unique moment to really make a difference with IT but that is contingent up on being able to extricate ourselves from the soul destroying (task) of just keeping the lights on.”

In other words, if you can’t get away from the day-to-day of putting out fires and running IT, then your role as an innovator will be severely hindered from the start. Firefighting is the Achilles Heel of innovation—how can you think creatively if you’re mired in doing someone’s else’s job all day—or at least what should be someone else’s job.

You need the time to figure things out. What you are after is the knowledge that is not known yet. The New. The Different. Unlike your network admins or DBA’s, there aren’t any “Innovation” break/fix manuals out there detailing the steps of what you need to do. And that “fix” is nothing short of figuring out how IT can help the business reach its goals. This, according to May, is “the next value add for IT.”

“The way I look at (innovation) is doing things with IT that either let’s the business do new things, sell new products, sell new services, or let’s do the same things in new ways, said Andi Mann, a research director at Enterprise Management Associates.

“You can certainly innovate in terms of internal processes and management tools but when the CIO is being asked to innovate that’s not what he’s being asked to do. He’s being asked to do things that allow the business to be better. To be more competitive, to run at a lower cost, to improve shareholder value—the things the business cares about.”