Over the last 12 months George Colony, Forrester CEO has been touring large corporations and sitting down with their leaders to discuss the success imperatives that drive their leadership style. Yesterday, at their IT Forum EMEA, Colony sat down with CIO to discuss what he’d learned.

His favourite comment from the wide range of leaders he spoke to was, “Finding time to think.” Colony said the same executive admitted that he has to take time off work to “just think”, but that he is not very good at taking the time off. His second favourite was one who said, “Building strong personal connections to employees,” not just having them as numbers, but real people the CEO knew.

With innovation a key theme at this year’s Forrester get-together, Colony of course spent time discussing innovation deeply with the world’s business leaders. “There was a tremendous frustration on the level of innovation they were getting from their companies,” Colony said. “Innovation was a mystery to most CEOs, they are not getting it from IT.” To read more about Colony’s discoveries, he’s been blogging at: http://blogs.forrester.com/colony/2008/05/what-ceos-want.html

Companies that were able to be innovative, Colony learned, were those taking advice from their customers. Colony said pharmaceutical giants Proctor & Gamble admitted to him that they have a team that visit supermarkets in emerging markets who photograph products and bring the ideas back. A French banking group sent its customers a letter asking them simply, “What would you do, if you were the bank manager?” John Chambers, chairman of network systems supplier Cisco told Colony, “We have never bought a company or developed a product without our customers telling us to do that.”

It’s not all sweetness and light though, one Forrester client, Colony said, entered the brave new world of Web 2.0, only to take the service down when they discovered how much negative coverage they were getting from customers. As Colony pointed out to them, this negative coverage is still going to occur, whether you have a Web 2.0 service or not.