Divergent CIO

An innovative, transformative, and digital leader experienced in Technology and Executive Leadership

How to Create an Innovative Workplace

InnovationFostering a culture of innovation begins and ends with an open mind about change. In order to promote an innovative workplace, no matter what the sector, there should be a continual exchange of ideas to result in the right balance for your company. Yes, you need creativity at the forefront of it all, but this isn't something that can be forced. However, positioning your firm to achieve a successful approach to innovation takes a few key motivators, from flexibility in the work environment to hiring team members for a vision that aligns with yours. Let's take a look at some of the best ways to foster an innovative workplace. 

Building a Creative Mindset
This all starts from the ground up with the people you decide to bring on board to take this journey with you. The wrong employees can prove to be toxic to your overall vision of creativity, change and flexibility in the work environment. It doesn't mean you have to only hire people who agree with you all the time; it's more than that. You want to encourage different perspectives by hiring people who are passionate about what they do, with the flexibility to spur on productivity without being hampered by rigid thoughts, ideas or scheduling parameters, says Forbes



Here are some tips to achieving that sought-after creativity:

  • Give employees incentives to care and thus share your company vision
  • Involve your employees in the process, listening to their ideas and getting them pumped about a new project, company direction, etc.
  • Brainstorm to help new ideas emerge
  • Broaden perspectives and encourage change through practices like short-term job swaps
  • Encourage trying new things, tweaking them to make them fit, discarding them or embracing them as a result
  • Avoid penalizing those whose ideas don't end up working out
  • Reward and encourage the flow of ideas and new thoughts


Does Technology=Innovation?
There's no denying technology is a big piece of the innovation puzzle. After all, how can you expect to compete in today's global market if you're not on board with the latest technology? Innovation often goes hand in hand with technology, but it doesn't have to. In fact, you can be innovative at little or no cost. Innovation, at its very core, is something more than that. Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, put it best in Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: "In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value." You can have all the strategy, marketing, technology and financial management skills in the world, and although all those things will help get you on the path to success, it may not necessarily keep you there. Bottom line is, you won't get far if innovation, flexibility, and creativity aren't ingrained in the company's soul.

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Successful Leaders Know How to Manage Their Time

Time ManagementMaximizing time is a one of the keys to success for busy leaders. For those who are struggling with time-management, here are some tips for time-management effectiveness:

Utilize Transition Times
If you’re like most people, there’s a lot of down time in your life that you could be using, but aren’t. This time might refer to when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, taking the subway into work, or even waiting for water for your tea to boil. Maximize this wasted time by using it to make lists, prioritize your daily activities, send emails, or make the call that you’ve been putting off.


Make a Priority List
Successful leaders not only know what they have to do in a day, but they also know how to prioritize those items. Make two lists: one of all the things you have to do in a day or week, and one of all of the to-do items that are most important to you. Then, set up a time-management plan that prioritizes the things that are most important to you. Once these are scheduled, fill in free time with the other things to be accomplished.


Delegate Tasks
Most leaders get to where they are by being Type-A personalities that want to do it all. And while being a go-getter certainly helps you get farther in life, learning when to delegate and disperse tasks out is also a key part of time-management. For more menial tasks that don’t require your expertise, allow someone else to get it done for you. Whether it’s answering emails or putting together the menu for your upcoming fundraiser, you don’t need to—nor should you—do it all.


Focus on the Short-term
Sure, long-term goals for yourself, your business, and your family are all important. But in order to reach those long-term goals, you’ll need to establish some short-term ones, too. Setting short-term goals allows you to focus your time specifically on these, maximizing every spare second. Achieving small goals on a daily basis will help you move you towards the direction of reaching your bigger goals.


Eliminate Time Wasters
We all have them – those things that we really don’t need to be doing, but do regardless sans any personal benefit. This might include using social media, playing a game on your smartphone or tablet, or doodling on a notepad out of boredom. To help you with your time-management skills, identify the things that you waste your time on. Then, either make the decision to eliminate these time wasters entirely, or schedule a part of your day that’s dedicated solely to them. If you choose the latter option, make sure the amount of time that you schedule is reasonable, and that you don’t participate in your time-wasting activity during another part of the day.

Time-management can be difficult, but is one of the many keys to optimizing success for busy people. To start maximizing your time today, utilize transition times, make a list of your priorities, delegate tasks, focus on short-term goals, and eliminate time wasters from your day.

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This Day Is Special to Me

All business and politics aside, I want to share why this day is special to me.  I don't want to start writing and this be just another cliché.  I wholeheartedly mean it when I say, "Never forget; remember them this Memorial Day".  Yes, you hear it all the time, "It's not national BBQ day. Remember the fallen". I've heard it all my life. You've heard it so much it seems something that you just say and then carry on with your business without a second thought.  I admit that's how little I reflected upon this day in my younger years. Being untouched by war or the loss of a loved one can leave you unappreciative of the meaning of this day.

Being raised in a large family with patriotic values where both your grandfathers' served in WWII and your father and uncles all served during Vietnam, instilled the meaning of this day in me. However, the true value of this day didn't really hit me until years later. Like many of my relatives that served before me, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps right out of high school. I set out to make my mark in this big world.  And that's just what I did. Nearly a dozen countries later and many great life-changing experiences, I had the honor and pleasure to meet one of the greatest people that touched my life.  His name was Melvin Blazer.

I first met Blazer after our Far East tour in 1989. He was a Private First Class when he joined our unit, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines (1/5).  This was a time where a lot of the older "salty" Marines were transitioning out of the unit or out of the Marine Corps altogether.  What immediately attracted me to Blazer is his genuineness and his big grin. He was a couple years senior to most of us at his rank, but showed much maturity and certainty that I hadn't seen in a non-NCO before. Moreover, his ability to bring people together in fun and amusing conversation.  There was never a time I can remember Blazer to be down, negative, or complain about anything.  That's why I think everybody got along with him and always wanted him on their team.  This was especially true when we were deployed to the Gulf the first time during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He had a way to keep the morale up and lead even though he wasn't an E-4 yet.

Several years passed, many of us left the Corps to move onto the next chapter in our lives.  Blazer decided he was going to make a career of the service, and stayed in the Corps. He moved from duty station to duty station, advancing in his career, including spending time as a recruiter in his home state of Oklahoma.  While few of us stayed in touch with each other, we only heard that Blazer was still making a life in the military.

It was Christmas 2004, I can vividly recall reminiscing about the "good ole days" in the Corps.  Listening to Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing", I was scanning my service pictures for a website project I was working on. As I paused and thought about all the great guys I served with - where were they now? My mind started to think about those that may still be in the service. God, I hope they are not deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Then I thought about Blazer. Could he be deployed? Is he stateside? It had been a few years since I last heard he was on recruiting duty.  To this day, I don't know what drew me to look up his name, but there was a site of fallen American servicemen that I frequented.  As I typed in Blazer's name in the search box, I became hesitant and uneasy.  I briefly closed my eyes and hit enter on the keyboard. As I opened my eyes, there he was...Melvin Blazer, 38 of Moore, Oklahoma.  It felt like somebody punched me right in the gut.  I sank to the floor.  The hurt was strong, as strong as the bond was...even 12 years later.

I don't write this to obtain pity, or make war glamorous, but rather to share Blazer's story and what Memorial Day means to me. While most people understand what this day is about, a lot of people don't. Some of them think it's just another veteran's day. Sure it is - for those veterans that died while serving. Yes, I am having a BBQ with my family, but it is our time to remember and reflect those that have shown selfless acts of courage and paid the ultimate price so we can enjoy a nice meal in peace.  Let's remember Blazer's and many others' sacrifice today.  This day is special to me.

Blazer, you left entirely too early; your life, presence, and smiles that you shared was one of the amazing joys of life by all those who knew you. We'll never forget. Rest in peace Marine.

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CIOs - Let's Break Through the IT Cost Center Paradigm!

CIOs -- Let's Break Through the IT Cost Center Paradigm! 

Here we go again — IT is starting off the new year in a hole that we've dug ourselves into. Check out these current headlines:

Why Your Company's Next CEO is Not Your Current CIO, Forbes, February, 2015.
" IT is still perceived as a cost center and the CIO as the Chief Infrastructure Officer."

Better Pharma CMO and CIO Collaboration Will Advance the Digital Revolution, Accenture Study, March, 2015.
"Two-thirds (67%) of the CMO respondents do not view IT as a strategic partner." 

The Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2015, Forbes, February, 2015.
"Transform the IT organization and reputation from no to yes, from SLAs to revenue growth, from obstacle to accelerator, from passive to opportunistic...For too long, CIOs and their IT organizations have earned the unflattering reputation of being Doctor No."

CIOs Combat the Old "IT-as-a-Cost-Center" Perception, Wall Street Journal, February 2015.
"The IT-as-a-Cost-Center perception remains widespread, threatening to deny CIOs an opportunity to help drive strategy. New McKinsey & Co. research found only about one-third of executives said their CIOs are very involved in shaping the overall business strategies and goals of the company."

CIO's - Let's Break Through the IT Cost Center ParadigmIt's time to take a serious look in the mirror, come to grips with reality and hold ourselves undeniably accountable — Information Technology is still out of sync with our business leaders and customers. While many CIOs and technologists may defend IT in an attempt to sway perceptions, I recommend that we wisely invest our time, energy and resources in  "changing the business of IT" through clear, deliberate and intentional acts that position our businesses and customers for extraordinary success!

Why is it so difficult for IT to make the leap from technology geeks to influential business advisors, empathetic customer advocates and inspiring change agents?

The short answer is...the IT industry continues to attract a certain type of individual plus perpetuate a certain type of servicing style — people who are great at tactics but who lack strategic chops. Now there is a place for IT tactics, but when the scale tips to a degree where the number of tactical thinkers and doers vastly outweighs the critical strategic thinking and doing required to help our organizations attain new performance heights, we're failing our key stakeholders. 

What do critical thinking strategists bring to the IT table?

Closely aligning and partnering with their C-level counterparts and customers, they are in the forefront of the action:

   Anticipating and quickly responding to market shifts.
   Articulating the possibilities as they identify, sell and act on the simplest to the most complex innovative solutions that will grow the business, advance market share and strengthen customer loyalty.
   Evangelizing for and accelerating movement on ideas and decision-making outcomes as well as seizing opportunistic moments.
   Building out the IT brand by enhancing the customer experience, connecting with customers at an emotional level and proactively shaping communications and key messages that highlight promises kept plus business value delivered.
   Speaking in business not IT language plus crafting compelling, real-life stories that influence and inspire decision makers to take enabling-technology action.
   Digging deep as they genuinely empathize with their customers while learning about their needs, pain points and goals, then seeking out targeted solutions that not only make their customers' lives easier, but spotlight their customers' accomplishments and successes.
   Being curious about and learning business nuances only to discover and act on organizational challenges that would have otherwise gone undetected.
   Tackling complex topics and issues that others avoid, such as customer-centric big data and analytics, social media engagement or more industry-specific subjects.
   Embracing globalization by reinventing security, mobility and virtual workplace strategies.
   Managing by exception versus managing everything in a world that is spinning at a rate that will obliterate us if we can't get our arms around what's most important to keep our businesses thriving and competitive.

What's stopping us from building out our strategic bench strength? 

It would be a considerable relief if there was one very simple root cause that could be easily rectified. Unfortunately, that's not the case. As CIOs, we're confronting some incredibly tough and sticky issues. In a nutshell, IT organizations are:

   Thinking that they're strategic when they're not — a case of being self-unaware.
   Failing to recognize that they need critical thinking strategists as a competitive advantage — a case of being oblivious.
   Magically expecting tacticians to become strategists when they're not wired that way — a case of misguided optimism.
   Continuing to hire like-minded people where tacticians are hiring tacticians — a case of "birds of a feather".
   Squelching the efforts of the few strategists that do exist in IT organizations by continuing to drag them into the tactics — a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. 

It's Our Choice

As CIOs, we must come to the realization that we're contributing to the IT-as-a-cost-center paradigm. We owe it to our organizations and our customers to take a hard stand and say "enough is enough". It's our responsibility to assess our strategic capabilities, or lack thereof, formulate a course correction plan and take decisive action. If we are remiss in our strategic responsibilities by continuing to turn a blind eye to this decade-old pervasive problem, we don't deserve a seat at the executive table...we don't deserve a loyal customer base...and we don't deserve to be fulfilling the role of CIO. Let's step up our game as IT leaders and permanently change the paradigm! 

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My First Blog

Welcome to my first blog!  If you've read my bio, resume, or seen some of the other content on my site, you now have a better idea of who I am, hopefully.

As a busy Healthcare Executive and Chief Information Officer, I do have some time to do get involved in projects and activities outside of work.  Currently, I sit on two boards. The first is a successful start up company in the food industry, and I also serve as a board member on the HITECH Advisory Board at Johnson County Community College.

As a father of three brilliant young adults, I coach and encourage my kids around their work and college lives.  Coincidentally, my kids are also involved in technology and healthcare.

I do stay current in technology and tinker with new gadgets. Most notably web, digital, and security technologies (this website was built by me!).

Of course one must stay well balanced in a busy life.  I exercise regularly, and am currently pursuing my 3rd Degree Black belt in Taekwondo and 1st Degree Black belt in Hapkido.  Time permitting, I continue to advance my status as a national/international certified USAT referee.

If there is anything you might be interested in, please let me know.  You can follow me on social media, or contact me HERE.

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