Can being uncertain about your ability to innovate actively hamper your creativity? Can the way you were educated and the survival methods you absorbed as you navigated your early career end up stifling any proclivity you might have been born with for fresh thinking? In other words, can one be taught to be innovative or conditioned to automatically - even unconsciously - suppress innovative ideas? Or is creativity either in our genes or else nowhere to be found?
CXOs of all stamps are constantly being urged to be more innovative, as if all they needed to do was to resolve to be so, in order to light a bonfire under their creativity.
Top executives want innovation, yet business executives talk about IT innovation more often than they achieve it, Forrester vice president and principal analyst recently told a US publication. CIOs say innovation is at the top of their list, he says, but when you look at where they're focusing, it's not on innovation - it's on operations and efficiency.
That's because they are where they are because they are good at operational work, but it can be hard for "operational kingpin(s) to drive something new and different".
And if those CIOs don't get respect from the business, nor do they deserve it, he implied, unless they can understand that different organizations have different requirements for innovation.
But what if those whose job it is to help CIOs understand what's possible are failing to help by providing them with the mental tools they need to be truly innovative?
What if CIOs (and indeed other CXOs) are being urged to be innovative without ever being equipped or having the equipment to do so?
Certainly, neither IT innovation nor business innovation will benefit every organization, and no-one can hope to be innovative unless they first acquire a comprehensive understanding of an organization's mission, processes, and bottlenecks to detect the points where IT innovation might help. But it is equally true that no one can become innovative simply on anyone else's say-so.
Obviously in today's hyper-competitive environment, innovation is vital both in launching new companies and in keeping established companies competitive with their peers. But what if nothing in your past has prepared you for the role of Chief Innovator and Motivator of Innovation in others? Is innovation a skill you can learn? Is there a method you can adopt that will make you a fount of constantly new and innovative ideas?
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