Written by: Scott Adams

Cunning as a CIO

Some offerings to the brave CIO who would like to transform their orginisation through IT led innovation.

Is innovation in our Kiwi DNA?

There are many good reasons for going to Invercargill, but a really good reason is to go to the E Hayes & Sons Hardware Store which stores Burt Munro’s fastest Indian motorcycle in it’s dual role as a place to buy a hammer and a museum to two wheels. Putting aside the brilliance of its resting location Burt’s Indian represents Kiwi innovativeness at its core. Burt created success by using ingenuity, as well as cunning, and fortitude that we should celebrate and encourage more of. It isn’t easy to achieve innovative success and arguably it is harder as a CIO than it should be.

First – Innovation Success has a cost

For context: Burt was 68 years old, riding a 47-year-old motorbike when he set the world speed record of 295.5 kph for under 1000cc, which still stands today over 42 years later. That one defining moment of his success does not adequately reflect how much time, effort and ingenuity he put into setting the record. When you visit the hardware store / museum you get an impression of the amazing talent and resilience from when he bought the Indian brand new in 1920. How he had to manufacture pistons and other components that invariably failed and are on display in the “Offerings to the God of Speed” shelf. Burt was prototyping his ideas at an amazing level and he had to visit Bonneville 10 times to get the final success but perhaps success in only truly won if it was not easy to achieve.

How do I achieve success as a CIO?

It probably won’t be by doing what is expected of you. It will be by doing more. The future success of all organisations we know today, will depend on successfully applying innovative approaches, using information and technology. Demands for technological innovation will only increase and your IT department must be perceived as a source of innovation or innovation will be done without IT, and that would be a shame. The four key elements to enable innovation to occur from IT are:

01     For the perception of IT as an innovator to occur the basics must be addressed first. The business is unlikely to perceive IT function as innovative when the Service Desk took two days to reset a password. Perception is, arguably, more important than reality and Effectus can help you by showing you how to do a CIO Business Vision survey.

02     Innovation requires space and permission. This is relatively basic to setup by booking time and providing guidance, but it is difficult to maintain. Many great ideas die before they can be realised because there was insufficient momentum at the time.

03   Supported creative people. There is no substitute for having some incredibly smart and talented people to work on a new idea.

04     Structure persistence. You probably guessed this on based on Burt Munro’s 47 years of endeavour to get a world speed record. If it helps, it was not the first one he broke so there will usually be more than one occasion to open a bottle of champagne.

In a more practical approach, assuming you have absorbed all the above diligently, the Innovation Process is as per the following diagram:

And if pictures are more your thing then the following diagram may be more helpful


But I am nothing like Burt Munro!

Most of us are not like Burt Munro and that is a good thing because though we need creative and tenacious people, we will also need the person who will put the plan together and someone who will work out the finances. And Burt was not easy to be around at times and largely worked alone. For effective IT led innovation to help transform our organisation, CIOs need to create the environment for innovation, but we don’t need to be the crazy inventor.

August 1967 in the Streamliner Modified Fuel (SF) Class




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