How to Define and Drive IT Innovation

IT organizations are constantly chasing innovation, but how often is it really found? Is this a case where gripping the soap too tightly makes it slip away? Brendan McGowan shares results from the CIO Executive Council (CEC) 2016 IT Innovation Survey (what a mouthful) in an article for It captures IT leaders’ current attitudes and expectations about innovation.

Innovation Intangible?

Only 20 percent of respondents believe innovation has a concrete definition with blanket applications, while 56 percent believe the definition changes contextually, and 24 percent believe there is no tangible definition at all. Leaders were furthermore asked what behaviors are most effective in enabling innovation, about which these results were uncovered:

No individual behavior is seen as either “extremely effective” or “very effective” – the top two response options – by a majority of IT leaders. When these two response options are combined, the three most effectual practices are having “creative brainstorming sessions” (48 percent)[,] seeing “leadership providing and advancing an innovative vision” (45 percent)[,] and having “leadership ‘mentors’ within the organization to drive change” (42 percent), respectively.

The greatest impediment to innovation in IT (at 63 percent response) is simply not having enough time leftover for it between managing the day-to-day tasks. Another 50 percent do not have the adequate budget to innovate, and 48 percent are hindered by a culture that is not change-oriented. But speaking of budgets, a third of respondents receive no formal innovation budget at all. Another 31 percent receive an innovation budget consisting of 1-5 percent of the overall budget.

The Innovation Outlook

Fifty-nine percent of IT organizations describe themselves as being “somewhat innovative,” which to my editorializing mind is the equivalent of saying, “Yeah, we make incremental improvements… which keep us exactly on par with our competition, changing nothing.” Nonetheless, another 27 percent describe themselves as “very innovative,” and three percent dare to call themselves “extremely innovative.” Overall, 64 percent of IT departments believe they are taking the proper steps to drive innovation across the business.

The CEC has identified four principles underscoring innovation: ROI-backed innovation is sustainable innovation. Cultures of collaboration can and should further evolve into cultures of innovation. Trust is the “currency” of dynamic IT organizations. And lastly, emotional reactions must be anticipated and addressed in implementing innovation. Addressing these principles maximizes the odds of successful innovation efforts.

You can view the full data here:

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