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Innovation: The next big thing

Tim Mendham | April 15, 2013
Nobody knows anything. These were the first words in American novelist, playwright and Academy Award-winning screenwriter William Goldman's book, Adventures in the Screen Trade."

Deloitte's Innovation Academy suggests that there are five key areas where an organisation can create the right environment to encourage innovation:

Inspiration -- develop a passion in your people by showing your leaders' commitment and challenging them to make a difference

Education -- provide access to the best thinking available in the world today

Collaboration -- allow your people to communicate their ideas and discuss then refine them with input from others

Problem solving -- access to resources and people that can provide solutions to problems

Tools -- processes, forms, plans and approaches to creating and commercialising opportunities.

James Kent, information services manager with welfare organisation Mind Australia, says that CIOs need to "find a highly intelligent individual who speaks a lot and has great ideas. Look to use this person as an emissary in the business. Build relationships and don't use geeks to do it! Ensure your technologists are innovative and where they look to innovate outside of IT, have channels to support it, but look to have a capability that can engage natively with the business. This can happen in an organic and fragmented way, so make it explicit and somebody's role. Get them talking to that part of the business no one in IT really wants to build relationships with.

"Finding talent and getting them to mentor is vital. Everyone has access to Google and the Internet. Having a mentor is like going to a gym with a personal trainer -- you just get more done because you are accountable and you have someone to point you in the right directions."

Deloitte's Hillard warns of the impact outsourcing can have on innovation: "You need a workforce with a full lifecycle. If you don't have that, then you can't take advantage of innovation. Outsourcing removes the innovation DNA."

Overall though, the key person in this process of IT-based innovation is, of course, the CIO.

A Deloitte report titled 2012 Technology Trends says, "Emerging technology is a continuing source of potential for innovation in business, and the CIO is the executive to deliver that opportunity...

"The CIO is in a rare position to guide innovation investments given technology's prominence across the business. And, because emerging technologies are important components of many innovative ideas, CIOs are likely to be in a better spot to help focus and drive resulting initiatives. CIOs can lead this digitally-fuelled ascent, realising their potential as business revolutionaries and not just technology visionaries or 'mind the store' stewards."

But it's not a given that CIOs will play such a role. The Technology Trends report says that there are a few caveats to being a revolutionary:

Not every CIO has the interest, experience or talent to drive innovation -- either at the strategic or the tactical level.


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