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CIO Leadership Award winner practices three types of innovation

Does your organization have a coherent innovation strategy? In this CIO Minute video, David Neitz, CIO at CDM Smith Inc. and winner of the 2016 MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award, lays out the three types of innovation his organization pursues and how each helps propel this Boston engineering and construction firm forward.

How do you think about innovation at CDM Smith?

David Neitz: We look at innovation from three spectrums. We look at incremental innovation, which is, 'What can I do to make what I'm doing today better?' Sustaining innovation, which says, 'OK, we're going to keep kind of doing the same thing we've been doing, but better than just incrementally better.' And then disruptive [innovation] to say, 'Look, it's going to be a totally different way of doing it.' We don't know if it's going to work, but we know that we have to take these bets. We have to fail forward, fail smart, and the company is really embracing that concept.

Of the three types of innovation, disruptive innovation -- and its potential for failure -- seems like a hard sell in your business.

We're an engineering company that was founded by an MIT professor back in 1947. And you think about the discipline of an engineer is, things should never fail. This building that we're in should never fail. Which, thank goodness, it doesn't. A bridge shouldn't fail.

But it's OK to fail when you're talking about technology. And as long as you learn from it, and you fail forward, you take those iterative learnings. And that's what we did.

Let us know what you think of the story about types of innovation; email Nicole Laskowski, senior news writer, or find her on Twitter @TT_Nicole.

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Which of the three types of innovation -- incremental, sustaining and disruptive -- does your organization pursue?
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We at PoleVault try to follow both sustaining and disruptive innovation.
But the rate of success of disruptive one is very low. And you have to
know this first and then try this out!
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At our organisation we follow disruptive innovation. As innovation has been a long time coming, there was no time for incremental nor sustaining innovation. For this to happen we needed to build the credibility of the IT department first. once we have the trust, we can engage in disruptive innovation. The ecosystem of the organisation is also strong enough for allowing some failures while adjustments take place.  Do not plan to fail. But if fail you must, recover fast!
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