Innovation means risk, CIOs warned: ‘Get over it’

Chief information officers should be leading the charge to adopt innovative social media if their organizations aren’t leveraging the technology, a Canadian IT professor has told an audience of CIOs.

In frank and sometimes tough language, James Norrie, associate dean of Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Business told the recent CIO Canada Exchange conference that chief information officers shouldn’t hide behind the possible problems social media such as Twitter may raise.

“Everything in business has risk — get over it”, he snapped to the Toronto session. “Stop talking to me about privacy and security. We live, unfortunately, in a post-privacy world. Grow up. That’s the way it’s going to be.”

They shouldn’t be reckless, he quickly added. “But I want you to be smarter in setting a standard that nobody else expects of you.”

The theme of the day-long conference was how CIOs can lead innovation in their organizations, and Norrie, the keynote speaker, tied innovation directly to bringing in and leveraging social media in organizations.

“Innovation has some risks. Take some risks,” he advised.

For those who need leverage, the return on investment from leveraging social media to get closer to supplier and customers is well documented. Examples range from Starbucks Corp. getting ideas for beverages from customers; Dell Inc. finding those complaining about its products on the Web to solve their problems and turn around the company’s image; and Manpower Inc. interviewing job seekers online in real time.

Norrie started his address talking about bringing innovation into organizations. Innovation isn’t strategy, he cautioned. Strategy is about what your company does, or differs from competitors. Innovation is about how strategy gets executed.

Put another way, Norrie added, your organization can claim it is strategic, but only your customers will determine if you’re innovative.

Which led him to describe three signs of enterprise innovation:

• Ideation – how quickly ideas get processed into work. (For example, it takes Starbucks four days to approve a suggested beverage and get it into stores);

• Intention – the determination to do something different. (For example, Dell set out to change its reputation by persuading one person at a time);

• Inspiration – the ability to look at something in a different way (For example, Southwest Airlines in the U.S. realized that if it could clean a passenger airliner 50 per cent quicker than competitors it would be eight times more profitable).

For innovation to have any value it has to be acted on quickly, Norrie added.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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