True Test of a First Rate Innovator

by Robert B. Tucker

True Test of a First Rate InnovatorTom Peters used to remind executives that it mattered little what they proclaimed to be their top priorities. Instead, the “In Search of Excellence” co-author advised looking at your calendar to reveal your main concerns, because that is where you are spending your time.

I thought of Peters’ admonition when reading IBM’s recently-released study of 2500 chief information officers. The contrast in the calendars of CIOs in high and low growth companies was quite revealing.

Low growth CIOs, according to the analysis, are bogged down in the muck and mire of tactical issues. Their calendars reveal 50 to 60 hour weeks reacting, fixing problems. They sweat and toil away just keeping the network up and running. They fight fires to the point of exhaustion. And still nobody is much happy with their work.

High growth CIOs work differently. Their calendars reveal a different use of time. For sure, they keep critical systems up and running and no doubt fight their share of fires.

But as a group they seem to have figured out how to keep their powder dry. They make a point to helicopter up high enough to see the big picture. To think about strategic issues the way the CEO must. These innovation-adept CIOs devote a whopping 87 percent more of their time “enabling the business and corporate vision” than their slow-growth peers.

These CIOs also seem to have realized that their unique position in the organization gives them a perspective few others have. And in recent years, they have focused laser-like on improving their innovation skills.

Titled “The New Voice of the CIO,” the survey identifies the personal best practices of highly effective Chief Information Officers. For instance:

  • High growth CIOs spend an impressive 55 percent of their time on activities that spur innovation. Low growth CIOs are mired in tactical execution and IT issues.
  • Specific innovation activities include generating buy-in for innovative plans, implementing new technologies and managing non-technology issues.
  • High growth CIOs spend 94 percent more time integrating business and technology to innovate than low-growth CIOs.
  • High growth CIOs actively use collaboration and partnering technology within the IT organization 60 percent more often than low growth CIOs.

Ever alert to new ways to add value to their organizations, today’s standout CIOs focus on return on investment from technology. They involve themselves in reinvesting the cost savings from technological innovation into other parts of the business, namely product and strategy innovations.

Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once remarked that the “true test of a first rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time and still function.” This is what all of us are required to do to add unique value to our organizations.

Although IBM researched the changing role of leading CIOs, the report challenges all of us to rethink priorities in a time of challenge and change. Even if you’re in HR, logistics, purchasing or payroll or some other functional area, what your calendar reveals about how you invest your time can be instructive.

How do these high growth managers find time for strategic thinking and innovation while others are bogged down in the weeds of daily execution? How do they “decommoditize” the value they create for the organization and become indispensible? Read this report and you’ll find yourself taking notes… and taking action!

Enjoy this post? Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Continuous Innovation group!


Robert B. TuckerRobert B. Tucker is the President of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group. He is a speaker, seminar leader and an expert in the management of innovation and assisting companies in accelerating ideas to market.

Leave a Reply