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Action Plan: Become A Next-Gen CIO

Next-generation CIOs aren't born, they're made. Here's how to get moving.
Being a next-generation CIO isn't about age--it's about mind-set. There are characteristics, both learned and intuitive, that can help you arrive at that way of thinking.

Get intuitively aligned
Understand where the business is, where it's going, and how it's going to get there. Know the answer from the CEO's perspective and from that of the "doers." Attend meetings, listen intently, ask insight-building questions, and above all, forge a permanent and tandem connection between what IT is doing and how that directly aids the rest of the company.

Solve business problems that matter
Choosing the right projects is a matter of intuitive alignment; delivering them is about executive will. Change leadership, says Jason Epstein, CIO of Rafaella Apparel Group, is about driving a complex business project from idea to value realization. Change is the only constant, especially for CIOs in dynamic environments.

Communicate, communicate, communicate
Everything that we do as CIOs involves communication, and it's the quality of our listening and influencing skills that makes us either good or great. Get good at the art of storytelling, as a way of captivating and influencing others to action.

Get line-of-fire customer experience
Nothing builds executive skills faster than being responsible for driving revenue. Build a new venture either inside or outside of your company. If that's not an option, do whatever you can to get firsthand experience with customers.

Build a second (or third) discipline outside IT
Product development and marketing are great ones, so are corporate strategy and supply chain. Focus on one or two so as to build your brand but create depth and lead change in an area that's critical to your company's present and future.

Mykolas Rambus is the head of technology and special projects for Forbes Media in New York.

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