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Innovation and IT Leadership

March 30, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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Good CIOs use good leadership tools to foster an innovative environment

We all know that the word innovate means to introduce new ideas; to implement a significant change in a process that leads to a better result. If you are an innovative CIO, you're constantly looking for ways to drive solutions and services that rise above the status quo. You should always be asking yourself, “How am I delivering meaningful value to my organization, my community, my employees and all of my clinical and financial stakeholders?”

There are several areas where you, the CIO, can make an impact as an innovator, including the following:


This may seem basic, but delivering outstanding service has gotten lost in the shuffle at many healthcare organizations. How do your stakeholders view the service your team provides each and every day? Have you asked them lately? Service is an endangered concept within most U.S. companies. Some say merely showing up is 50 percent of the battle. I say do what you promise to do, and do it earlier than you promised. Deliver before your deadline and you'll stand out every time. Always try to do a little more than your stakeholders expect. Surprise them with extras. From now on, make it a practice to evaluate and “score” your team's service. Always look for new and innovative ways to deliver outstanding service to anyone using IT in your facility. Set up quarterly or semi-annual survey processes and find out what others think about your service delivery.


Quality means much more to the end user than the speed at which you deliver your services. Whether it's a new desktop, laptop, PDA or a new application, end users will base their opinions of quality on their personal experiences. How will it make their workflow better, or be more convenient and efficient? Quality does matter. For patients, it means choosing a hospital with a focus on quality that will result in their feeling better, going home, and getting back to work. The IT team you lead plays a big part in making this happen. What quality measure are you using in your organization to ensure each component of your service is delivered with the highest quality standards? Learn new quality processes from peers or from attending conferences. Learn a new and innovative best practice on enhancing quality and adopt it right away.


Innovation often means “shaking things up,” reorganizing and experimenting internally. Look at the processes you have in place. Are you and your team still doing the same things but trying to get different results? Foster an environment that allows employees the capability to try new ideas and processes. An innovative leader provides tools for success - approachability, permission to fail, and reward - while maintaining a laser focus on promoting the concepts that create value, increase productivity and drive ROI.


Spend time with stakeholders on a regular basis to find out what they need to deliver higher quality care. This does not mean you have to start customizing your solutions for every request. It does mean others will appreciate you for listening to their challenges and benefit from learning what your team is working on. Schedule meetings today with all of the key stakeholders in your organization, and spend 30 to 45 minutes communicating your plans, and give them a chance to tell you what's on their mind. Let them talk. Just “listen.”

Now that, in itself, is innovative.

Healthcare Informatics 2009 April;26(4):86