Catching Lightning

Catching Lightning

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September 16, 2013
CIO to do list

If innovation is to be stimulated and its output exploited in your IT organization, and company at large, a process is essential to capture, analyze, select and implement the best ideas out there.

So what’s on Enterprisers’ to-do lists as they look to capture innovation?

Many establish or use enterprise social networks to crowdsource solutions. They publish problem statements that solicit ideas from across IT and the company at large. Companies such as Innocentive and Nine Sigma have used this model successfully for years to draw upon answers to scientific challenges for pharma, biotech and consumer products companies. In the process, they have uncovered hundreds of solutions to previously ‘intractable’ problems.

The same method can work inside your organization, especially if you already support a small percentage of time for each employee to think freely and outside of his or her immediate priorities.

Enterprise social networks also can be used as repositories for out-of-the-box thinking from intellectual mavericks in the organization. Once employees know they have the ear of executives like the CIO, they tend to care a lot less if their ideas won’t fly – as long as they know why. Like any venture capital investment in innovation, only a few final winners emerge. In the end, it’s always better to have a few paper-based solutions in search of problems than it is to have final, produced products that need to find applications right away.

One Enterpriser who works as CIO of a 90,000-person company spearheaded a recent contest that generated nearly 12,000 ideas, 27 of which were chosen as Silver finalists and nine of which were chosen as Gold winners and ultimately implemented. This CIO noted that, “a culture of innovation is more than just an IT culture,” but rather a corporate-wide culture where all employees are viewed as engines of innovation.

An important point to note is that the preponderance of ideas being submitted in this example were much less IT-specific than business-specific. That means that you must include a way for you and your fellow IT employees to sit at the sales, manufacturing, line of business, and many other tables so you can view the world through their eyes, learn their business priorities, and know what to suggest.

There is no need to boil the ocean, of course. As in any successful IT implementation, land then expand – pilot a solution first and then take on a larger-scale approach based on your initial learnings.

ABOUT THIS ARTICLE

CIO To-Do List is one of the topics covered by “The Enterprisers Project.” Here we’re discussing how enterprise CIOs are balancing the need to bring disruptive innovation while not disrupting the operations of their organizations. Learn more about The Enterprisers Project, and join the discussion with CIO magazine at The Enterprising CIO.

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