C-Level Execs Drive Innovation

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Forget about who will be the next CInO (Chief Innovation Officer). According to IBM's 2010 Global CEO Study, you might not have to look much further than the CEO's chair. The full study can be found here.

According to the study, which surveyed over 1,500 CEOs from around the world, more than 60 percent of CEOs believe that industry transformation is the top factor contributing to uncertainty and indicates a need to discover innovative ways of managing an organization's structure, finances, people, and strategy. This actually is not so different from the 2008 Global CEO Study, in which two-thirds of the respondents reported implementing extensive innovations, often in the business model itself.

So what is the CEO to do? Apparently they are ready to invite disruptive innovation and consider previously unheard-of ways to drastically change the enterprise. This is a far cry from the management lament of the past 2 years of financial turmoil, when the mantra was do-more-with-less and cut, cut, cut.

As it turns out, innovation may not be that hard to come by as soon as the organization opens itself to unheard-of ways to do things. Maybe all it takes is a fresh face.

For example, a pair of young, new utility company workers — who obviously didn't appreciate the sacrosanct ways of doing thing things — was sent to perform a routine inspection. When they encountered a problem, instead of going through the laborious set of tasks to report it, one worker pulled an iPhone from his pocket, took a few photos of the problem, and emailed them back to the office.

Once back, they cobbled together a little code that inserted the necessary information along with the photos into the problem reporting system. Suddenly, the company had an innovative new problem reporting process that eliminated the many tedious steps previously required to report a problem, while producing faster, better results.

Gartner recently looked at ways that executives can stimulate innovation in their organizations. Much of it revolves around how the organization handles information and its information technology infrastructure. Gartner identifies four approaches.

1. Information management — new ways of collecting and managing information can drive innovation. That's what the utility workers did.

2. Information as an asset — here the organization can combine information with business analytics to generate fresh business insights.

3. Adaptive information infrastructure — techniques, according to Gartner, that support the discovery of meaning and relationships across the entire content continuum can be automatically inferred, and decisions about information delivery can be made at a more abstract level.

4. Alternative delivery models for information — organizations find new ways to make information available to workers and customers, maybe via smartphone or social media.

These approaches are not mutually exclusive. You can mix and match them to come up with even more innovation possibilities. ###

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