Innovation and the Big Deal

We CIO’s continually seek to refine the definition of our role, with an eye towards justifying the vaulted positions we hold and maximizing our impact on the success of the company. I’m always reminded of that line from the movie “Anchorman” where Will Ferrell‘s character Ron Burgundy is trying to impress the leading lady and says “I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal ….people know me.”  Comedy often comes with a shred of truth. Pick up any CIO related media, and you will inevitably find a lot of advice as to who we CIOs are – articles like “how to influence customers”, “how to gain competitive advantage”, and others about what you can do to improve business results rather than just cut costs. These articles and findings will contrast the “utility” CIO from the “innovation” CIO and invite you to determine where you fall on this spectrum.

Last week I was on a panel at an excellent Harvey Nash event in the Valley where this topic of innovation was discussed. We reviewed an annual survey of CIOs from around the world taken by the crew at Harvey Nash to discern trends in 2010-2011.  There were several key questions posed, including this point about how to be an innovator and how to foster innovation at your company. One member of the audience stated that innovation was about big things – game changing high-impact ideas that alter the nature of a business. Only major, important things should be referred to as innovation. As an example, we are pursuing a “big deal” series of innovations at Splunk, using our own technology to drive insight into the business and improve results. But in addition to these game changing ideas, I shared a short story about a CIO in Chicago who told me recently that in his shop they innovated “cookie Thursday” where anyone coming to the help desk got a cookie, and that this small idea boosted morale and productivity.

Sometimes it’s the “big deal” things, but often it’s the smaller ideas, even the ones we already know but forgot somewhere along the line, that make a real difference.

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