Innovation Atrophy: How Companies Can Fight It

It's time for IT leaders to get their teams pumped up again about tech-powered innovation.

Chris Murphy, Editor, InformationWeek

May 19, 2011

2 Min Read

>> What's The CIO's Role?

Innovation atrophy will set in unless creative people fight it. That's where the CIO has to set the tone.

Guzman puts the heat on himself to build a creative culture where people question the status quo. As CIO, he needs to know Acxiom's customers but also have the technical chops to inspire people to consider new approaches inside their specialties. It's why he participates in the advisory boards of vendors including IBM, Intel, and VMware.

While Acxiom has formal communications channels, like the IT team's "Not So Personal Portal," Guzman puts the most stock in informal discussions. "They have to walk out of those fired up," he says. "Our top networking architect has to have his thinking changed when he talks with me. Our top database architect, same thing. It's a leadership imperative."

Capone looks at the CIO role as helping "envision what's possible" with IT-driven innovation. CIOs must light the fire, so their companies don't become complacent. "You need some burning issues, particularly some competitive threat, to motivate the troops," he says. Then the CIO needs to make sure IT is part of the strategic response and helping to channel that energy.

At Caesars, Lane has been thinking about how to get the word out about its latest innovations. PowerPoint slides just don't do justice to projects like its interactive slot machine screens, so her team is experimenting with Web conferencing tools that can convey the cool factor, build excitement, and pull in feedback from a wider range of people.

More than anything, though, fear of failure leads to innovation atrophy. CIOs must establish that risk is part of the innovation process, giving IT a license to experiment. Because IT is so integral to a widening array of products and services, businesses can't wait for IT teams to get every element perfect in a lab. That means trying new ideas where failure is scariest--in front of actual customers.

"If you really want to do innovation that will lead to customer-facing or employee-facing new technologies, you have to get proof-of-concepts out there," Lane says. "Sometimes they work. Sometimes not so much."

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InformationWeek: May 30, 2011 Issue

InformationWeek: May 30, 2011 Issue

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About the Author(s)

Chris Murphy

Editor, InformationWeek

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in Hungary; and a daily newspaper reporter in Michigan, where he covered everything from crime to the car industry. Murphy studied economics and journalism at Michigan State University, has an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has passed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams.

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