How do IT executives encourage innovation among technology professionals? Frank Wander, founder of the IT Excellence Institute and a former Fortune 250 CIO, shares these three best practices.
Always recognize that IT's culture is your responsibility, and innovation is an outcome of the culture. Your division's culture forges either a team with positive social chemistry and a supportive environment or, in the case of many large corporations, a group of downbeat workers whose chances for bonding have been bled away. Once you've established a supportive environment, you should mix people with different points of view and thinking styles to stimulate everyone's creativity. Also be sure to nurture people with deep institutional experience. Friendly interactions can connect many different threads of knowledge in new ways, which Steve Jobs once said is the key to creativity. Research has also shown that laughter and humor are great aids to creativity and therefore innovation. Encourage people to have fun.
Sometimes work outside the office to find a quiet setting in which to think. The office's frenetic pace can cut into thinking time and stifle innovation. Albert Einstein found time to think by taking long walks alone to refine his theories. If you study big breakthroughs, you often find that inventors had quiet and time alone so they could think.
Never build a culture of blame. Innovation is often about trying and failing. If failure leads to blame, you'll create an innovation short-circuit. It's been well documented that antisocial behaviors trigger a person's threat sensor, putting the body on high alert and physically cutting off higher-order cognitive processes.
Frank Wander is founder and CEO of the IT Excellence Institute and a former Fortune 250 CIO. His business helps companies build high-performing IT organizations.
Read more about innovation in CIO's Innovation Drilldown.