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CIO Unplugged – 1/1/09

January 1, 2009 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

CIO reDefined: CIO 2.0 Chief Innovation Officer
By Ed Marx

The roles of a CIO are as varied as the companies and sectors they serve. Even within these roles are multiple combinations and permutations that are expressed according to circumstance. The moniker “CIO” itself is not limited to “Chief Information Officer.” No, to be effective in our calling we must stretch the traditional definition beyond this commonly accepted interpretation. This post continues a series on how the “CIO 2.0” will push the boundaries of conventional thinking surrounding the role. We continue with the “Chief Innovation Officer.”

Neglecting science credits finally caught up with me my senior year of high school. I’d hoped to coast through my last year and focus on non-academic pursuits. Instead, I was stuck taking Physics while friends took basket weaving, under water firefighting, and equivalents. Deep into the first semester, my grade sunk low enough to negate my eligibility for tennis and soccer. I became desperate. While negotiating with my teacher, he said if I came up with a unique physics project that would blow his socks off, he’d consider it extra credit worth one letter grade.

Partnered with a classmate in a similar predicament, I set out to demonstrate how human energy could be converted to electricity to power an appliance. For a couple of seventeen-year-olds with little experience and no formal instructions, this required some serious innovation. We found an old bike and welded it to a stand. We purchased a used car alternator, pirated a battery, and “borrowed” an appliance. With some help from my classmate’s dad, our prototype worked. We impressed our teacher enough to raise our grade and keep us in good standing with parents, coaches, and our future universities.

Innovation is not reserved for youth. On the contrary, it is the price of admission for the CIO 2.0. We must have the talent to innovate, or at the very least, the vision for innovation. If we are unable to innovate, we must gather others around us who have this core talent, and then give them the freedom required for success.

I previously described an innovation that came about via a Glorious Mashup. We codenamed the innovation “CareTube” and trusted it would revolutionize training, especially for time- and pride-sensitive clinicians. It would also enhance our already high CPOE adoption rates. More recently, we worked with Microsoft and Infusion to create a new model for enhanced physician and patient communication. At a Gartner conference, our model was voted the most innovative application of technology.

The above innovation is scheduled to be featured by the keynote speaker at the Consumer Electronics Show later this month in Vegas.

For IT to become strategic and make a difference, IT leaders must innovate constantly. Remain decidedly against the status quo. Always ask, “How can this be leveraged or improved?” “What new use can be created out of…?” “What if…?” Change scenery regularly. Play games like Cranium or build with Rokenbok, anything that stimulates you to piece the world together differently. Read insatiably then set aside time to think, giving absorbed knowledge time to sift and settle. Understand when is the right time for the right innovation.

Are you innovating? If yes, model for others and replicate yourself. If no, then begin to or find and release those who are.


Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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