How to win the innovation game

Enterprise leaders weigh in on the key intangibles of digital transformation

Companies are investing deeply in digital technologies today, from predictive analytics to deep learning and other forms of AI. But it takes critical human elements—including support from the C-suite—to convert tech innovation into meaningful business results.

The good news? Many companies can open faster paths to success by starting small. “Many innovations don’t require a large investment upfront,” says Max Chan, CIO of Avnet, adding that they could be short, targeted programs that allow organizations to prove out ideas.

In this expert roundtable, we asked four enterprise leaders about the key intangibles required for successful digital transformation. Read more about challenges and opportunities with corporate innovation in the latest issue of Workflow Quarterly.

Recognize the big idea

Bill McDermottThe best CEOs understand that it’s not about what you say. It’s about asking the right questions. And listening carefully enough to recognize the big idea. And then immediately getting energy around that idea and galvanizing a team so they can change the game for the customer and deliver the market opportunity.

Set the tone for continual change

Philip TaphouseIt’s critical to break a mindset that merely rewards people for checking boxes. Companies need employees who feel encouraged to innovate, and to look at problems in a new way. That’s the spark of true innovation—and it starts with management.

Great leaders—at least the ones who lead innovative companies—aren’t precious about ownership, or structures, or tools. They empower people to use their imaginations, to share their perspectives, and to step outside of their lanes. They articulate a vision for where the company’s going—and why—and trust the team to find the best strategy to achieve those goals.

Many people can accomplish that for a single project. But to do it day in, day out is really difficult.

Recruit the right platforms and partners

Gordon DunsfordIf you’re a new CIO, it’s important to get the right operating model, partners, and platforms and to invest in digital infrastructure to support your business needs at speed. You also need a great architectural team to identify which capabilities and workflows should run on particular platforms and make sure that they fit the purpose.

Successful CIOs aren’t technocrats. They’re executives who need to manage expectations, find funding sources, turn bad funding decisions into good ones, recycle cash into the right spaces. You’re managing a business, not IT.

Foster a learning culture

Heather PflugerSuccessful innovation hinges on creating a culture of empathy, which requires that everybody—from the newest hire to the most experienced executive—continue to learn and grow. We have a constant influx of young people from diverse backgrounds who are full of energy and ideas, which is one reason that we’ve embraced reverse mentoring. They’re new to the workplace, but they have a lot to teach somebody like me who’s been in the industry for more than 25 years.