The launch of Raspberry Pi was one those rare events that makes me realise that British innovation is alive and well and usually living in Cambridge.

It’s remarkable in its simplicity, perfectly timed and could prove to be a seminal moment in the British technology industry.

It also reminded me that innovation often comes from a couple of people who are left alone in a small room with a good idea.

No disrespect to the likes of Google and Microsoft (most of whom were founded on such an idea) but once you get to certain size you are more likely to buy good ideas than generate them.

In the last two articles we have talked about two of the components critical to becoming a successful CIO today, talent and leadership.

Now we look at the third and arguably the most important component, innovation.

I meet many CIOs whose idea of innovation is to have regular meetings with Microsoft, IBM, HP or Cisco to talk about all the wonderful new solutions they have in the pipeline.

I have no problem with these meetings but as CIO, you shouldn’t be attending them.


The fact is that a lot of what these companies provide is more utility than innovation. They are now too big to be real innovators and most of their new stuff comes from acquiring technologies and then re-engineering them into their product lines.

The CIO’s internal innovation is based more around the business: coming up with ideas for technology that changes the game or pushing the IT department to do something about the fact that the systems the business is using are driving them mad.

I call it an App Store mentality: make my experience stimulating so that I think about the business and a life free of IT-related stress.

I have enough things to worry about without software updates being one of them.

Innovation is a word that is misused and abused across the IT industry. Are you really innovative?

We all like to think so but when was the last time you met with a small company just because they produce interesting or cool technology?

When did you take the initiative and say to the board: "We are going to get in half a dozen companies you have never heard of to come in and challenge our thinking?"

I am meeting more and more startups that are showing the way forward with the big trends, such as social apps, mobile/tablet and new thinking about data. It cuts through the hype and shows the reality.