#6/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Connector

This is the sixth article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.

Image: Wikipedia

You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it.
You must learn to see the world anew

Albert Einstein

In a former life, I started a consulting company.

In those early day, many of the thoughts and musings I share in this blog were in their infancy, but I knew then that solutions to the thorniest problems always existed, they just had to be discovered.

And in most cases, the solution was a composite of information, ideas, data, experiences from a wide variety of people, across all facets of the organization.  IT or Engineering didn't have the corner on the market.

I gave my new company a rather bizarre name - Synectics Technologies. (That's pronounced SIN-ECK-TICKS... I've since learned that you should really choose something pronounceable for your company name, but I digress).  In spite of the marble-mouth symptom in trying to say it,  the name was perfect because of its meaning:

According to Dictionary.Com, synectics is "the study of creative processes, especially as applied to the solution of problems by a group of diverse individuals."

Given that I've named all the other competencies in this series with descriptors starting with the letter "C", I couldn't call this skill "synectics".  Besides, you'd never remember it, and would have an even harder time pronouncing it.

The competency of today's post is Connector.

Today's IT environment is complex, and growing increasingly so. Gone are the days when the all-knowing technology leader knew every solution to every technical problem.  (Not that anyone ever did... but I know we like to think so.)

In light of this series, being a CIO in the 21st Century is less about the actual technology, but more about delivering solutions for all the other lines of business, as well as design solutions for the future that doesn't even exist yet.

You cannot do this alone.

You can't possibly be an expert in Finance, Marketing, Production, HR, Legal, Sales, Communication, and the 99 other things that go on in your organization.

But you can become an expert at bringing together multifaceted, diverse bits of information and people from inside and outside your organization to define a solution.

This is "out of the box" thinking at its finest... with one key difference.  You are coordinating a group of people in the process of connecting ideas, experiences, and information and guiding them in the process of letting the solutions bubble up.

Some of you might think I've had one too many bumps on the head, and other might think this sounds like what every management consultant promises to do.

It's a little of both, but not quite.

This is perhaps the least tangible of the competencies, so let me define what it might look like.

The Connector competency in practice looks like this:

  • You no longer prescribe solutions based on your expertise. Solutions are distilled from input from your end users, subject matter experts from key areas of your organization, outside expertise and best practices. In many ways you are the orchestra conductor rather than the soloist.
  • You have become an expert researcher and collator of information (or have this skill set on your team).
  • You do not limit your solutions to your own experiences.  You are willing to approach it from an entirely different angle in order to find creative solutions.  (Remember the Einstein quote above).
  • Sometimes the person with the best input is the least expected.  (In a production environment, sometimes the people working on the line know more about the processes and equipment than the managers, engineering or IT department).
  • You involve the people with the most at stake in finding a solution.  You also engage key people without a vested political or personal stake in the situation.
  • You can run efficient and effective meetings.  People love to contribute but they hate sitting through bad meetings.  You can't expect them to participate if you can't manage the meeting.
  • You have developed your editorial skills to distill the key messages, problems, potential solutions out of the conversations.
  • Your team provides expertise in what they are experts at.  They don't presume to have the same expertise as someone from another department.
  • When you present the "solution", people are excited since they had a key part in developing the solution.  They can see the direct tie between the problem they defined, and the ultimate solution your team implemented.

In the end, you have the ability to find solutions in a consultative manner that is designed approach those thorny problems from several new, novel and sometimes outlandish perspectives.

How would you describe connector in action?

I'll be presenting one competency per posting over the next while, and compile them into one big, long post when complete.

Next posting: Community Builder


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