How to successfully break from outdated approaches to innovation

The CIO is well-positioned to change the status quo and encourage employees to do the same


Everyone is afraid of change – at least a little. Change in our personal lives, change in the world and change in business all come with potential risks and rewards. A little fear is a good thing, however, as it keeps us on our toes.

When it comes to leading a company, too much trepidation can often be a death knell. Reluctance to adapt can lead to overreliance on outdated technology and, eventually, obsolescence for the business itself.

Fear can be especially paralyzing for larger companies that tend to have longer memories when it comes to innovations that flopped magnificently and risks that never paid off. As a result, those who promote change are often seen as the face of trouble to come rather than the face of the future.

Part of this has to do with organizations often having a difficult time configuring the key attributes they need to define change. They approach the same challenges in the same ways instead of taking on different data points to solve problems that could transform their companies.

The role of CIO is particularly important when it comes to conquering fear. The CIO is uniquely positioned when it comes to establishing an innovative culture that can be approached with leadership, trust and championship of changes that need to happen within a company, regardless of institutional fears that may be at play. A CIO has the potential to be a patient shepherd, leading a company and its employees down the path to innovation.

Innovation is more important than fear

Innovation isn't just a buzzword to be used in motivational speeches and marketing material – it's a fundamental shift in how a company thinks and operates. Companies that shy away from innovation eventually have their lunch eaten by smaller, nimbler startups and entrepreneurs who find new ways of conquering old problems.

Rather than viewing mistakes as failures to be penalized, innovators look at mistakes as stepping stones to a new understanding. For smaller companies, this type of attitude is more easily achieved: Larger companies tend to focus more on keeping a steady course and not rocking the boat.

But in the modern age, adopting new technologies to improve how a company operates is no longer optional – it's a baseline requirement. Large companies may be able to coast for a long time, but eventually a lack of innovation will catch up to them.

Visit Innovation Enterprise's Chief Innovation Officer Summit in New York, on December 6–7, 2018

Four ways to jump-start an innovative mindset

Luckily, embracing innovation is possible for companies of every size – even if it may be more difficult in big corporations. The CIO, especially, has the power to change the status quo and encourage employees to do the same. Begin to catalyze innovation through these approaches:

Embrace diversity

Diversity shouldn't be a box you check with a hire or two. If you have a team made up of people with diverse skillsets, cultures and experiences, you expand the directions in which you can innovate. If everyone comes from the same background, you'll wind up with groupthink and, inevitably, stagnation.

Encourage collaboration

Give your team an opportunity to work in a collaborative environment, especially when it comes to tackling major challenges. You'll be surprised at how people's unique experiences and skillsets complement one another. From that, a CIO may see more innovative outcomes than they ever considered possible.

Push the boundaries

As CIO, it's important that your entire team works to stay abreast of the constantly evolving set of technological tools available. People are at their best when they're being inspired to stay on the leading edge of their industry – to push what is currently possible and improve upon the normal way of doing things.
Don't worry about micromanaging: Give your team members enough space to problem-solve on their own or through collaboration. The key is to get your team – and yourself – in the mindset of constantly looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition and develop solutions that customers (and employees) will be excited about.

Institute internal change

Don't look at innovation as just a customer-facing issue. Practice it on internal systems as well. If you can't accomplish something for your company internally, how can you deploy innovative solutions for your customers?
Furthermore, if you're stuck on using antiquated technology in the workplace, this inability to stay with the times will trickle down to consumers. Disruption is inevitable; the key is to start by disrupting your own company and embracing new technologies such as big data, AI and automation to get work done.

The CIO is obviously only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to embracing innovation, but he or she is a crucial piece. By encouraging collaboration and outside-the-box thinking, you have the power to transform your company from one simply trying keep up with the times to a business that's leading the pack.

Find out about the latest challenges and opportunities for CIOs at Innovation Enterprise's upcoming Chief Innovation Officer Summit in New York, on December 6–7, 2018.

Book tickets today HERE.

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