Innovation is not a role it is a culture, to paraphrase the words of JLT CIO Ian Cohen. There is a wealth of hype from vendors and analysts espousing that CIO should stand for chief innovation officer, it certainly sounds good, but no organisation of any scale or success is built on the ideas of one individual.
Innovation without doubt needs a leadership position and necessarily this should to be a champion of technology and what technology can do for to the organisation and is doing to the organisation, the very position on the pitch the CIO plays in.
This means CIOs have to create an environment for innovation. Equally it means CEOs and CFOs have to enable CIOs to create this environment and embrace the disruption it will cause.
Creating an environment for innovation depends, as we will see, on the scale of organisation and the challenges it faces, but essentially the skills required for building that culture are the skills that transformative CIOs have in spades: strong communications, balanced risk; desire for change; technological acumen and business sense. If you are a CIO with these attributes you will desire to create an environment where the ideas and skills of the organisation, at any level, can contribute to a world that is built on the shifting sands of technology change.
Andrew Jordan, Senior VP for International Operations and Technology at global media organisation NBC Universal and Graham Benson, CIO for online retailer M and M Direct have considerable differences in scale of the organisations they lead technology for, but these three Brits have both created innovative ecosystems in their organisations. Whether it is creating a set of labs at major operating offices to ensure everyone in an organisation can experiment with the increasing diversity of the devices and platforms, or enabling BYOD and inspiring people to offer up ideas in return for a pack of sweets and some recognition. These projects and outcomes are equally valid and suit the respective organisations they are being adopted within.
As Barry Smith, CIO at the architecture firm founded by Lord Foster recently told this title, shadow IT is just users finding ways to do their job more easily to deliver an outcome. Where shadow IT dilutes the organisation is that it is innovation contained in a silo, only that individual or team may benefit from an innovation that could have a beneficial effect across the organisation. Jordan and Benson show great leadership by not trying to be the sole innovator, but by showing innovation is about enabling everyone to contribute an innovation as and when the seed of an idea germinates.