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CIO Insights: How to approach innovation

Rebecca Merrett (via CIO) | July 5, 2013
Three Australian CIOs share their advice.

Sometimes you can come up against linear thought process associated with more traditional forms of business disciplines such as accounting, and these don't necessarily lend themselves to thinking outside the square.

An accountant's way of learning and understanding how the world operates is different to someone who comes from a more creative, arts based background. So breaking out from this mould within a review panel process means that you have the capacity for the attendees to properly understand the concepts put forward to a wider audience.

Another way could be instead of having a traditional 'yes management approves - go ahead' approach, switch it up with a pre-approval process based on a mini-review panel. In other words, all ideas are good until management says no. Whilst some might say it's easier for people to say "no" I would assert it's harder for people such as the CEO to say "yes".

An ongoing dialogue is important when building trust with other business executives. I think when things fall down it's because people are not kept in the loop and so getting a sense for where things are at and what is being worked on can help put minds at ease.

They don't actually have to make every decision but sometimes they just need visibility rather than total control. Tapping into the ideas of people in an organisation on the ground level is fantastic for innovation, but it really does come down to communication and building trust with the other executives.

CIOs face a multitude of challenges in their daily roles. In the first installment of our new CIO Insights series, we talk to three leading Australian technologists about their approaches to encouraging innovation in their organisations and engaging other c-level executives in the process.

Scenario: The CIO is trying to encourage innovation and has an informal approach to people submitting their ideas to the IT department. However, the CEO or another business head wants to take a different approach and review each single idea - big and small - making the approval process time consuming. The CIO's concern is that this might stifle creativity.

What would you do in this situation? CIO Australia talks to three CIOs who share their advice.

Ajay Bhatia, CIO at

We are surrounded by uncertain times and this is making many CEOs and execs very vary of risk so doing something small is going to be more palatable than doing something big. Conservative organisations are risk averse and starting small reduces risk. But it's about building that small innovation into your technology process.

For example, developers could be encouraged to come up with innovative ideas through the project life cycle. Agile is very helpful here as it discourages you to define everything upfront and leaves scope for 'innovate as you go'. When we define a project we don't define all of the requirements of the project upfront; we leave a lot of room for discovery so incidental and accidentals ideas.


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