The role of the CIO is ever-evolving, and needs to strike the right balance between operational excellence and business innovation. A CIO needs to be able to simplify and upgrade networks and systems while ensuring they are secure, and simultaneously take on an active role in creative digital transformation to drive revenue and customer acquisition.
Creative thinking is key. I credit much of my business success as a CIO at BlueShore Financial to the creative thinking skills that I first honed in my initial career as a musician.
I am a member of the executive management team at BlueShore Financial, and am lucky enough to have a team that so often supports and encourages my challenge-the-status-quo type ideas. During my 15 years at BlueShore, we have gone through a major transformation from a small community credit union with lagging technology infrastructure, to a thriving full-service financial institution that embraces technology and new ways of doing things. From being the first Canadian credit union choosing to forge ahead with implementing the Temenos banking system (T24), with many other credit unions following suit soon after, to designing our unique Financial Spa branches from top to bottom, to developing tools that enable BlueShore to interpret behavioural and financial data to better serve clients, to more recently being the first credit union in Canada to install an ATM with state-of-the-art touch screen menus and envelope-less deposits, myself and my team regularly push for creative and innovative projects at BlueShore.
My time in the music world taught me lessons about creativity and teamwork that I recognize in the business world, and that I use every day at the office. For example, trust your bandmates, because you can’t play every instrument. You need to trust that each musician will come through and perform their part of the song. You need to trust your employee’s talent and expertise and allow them to do what needs to be done. As a leader, micromanaging is rarely beneficial for your employees’ time, or for your own. Sometimes giving an employee the freedom to perform on their own, with their unique ideas on how to complete a task, can produce the most ground-breaking results.
You also need to manage the tempo. The drummer of the band influences the volume, pace, and beat intensity, but clear communication between bandmates is key to managing the tempo of a song onstage. Just the same, a business leader needs to create strong relationships and listen to the pulse of their team and workloads.
Most importantly, you need to allow for new rhythms. Original music would never come to fruition if the same notes were played every time. If there’s a mistake during a set, how does the band make up for it and make it work? By coming together, and potentially creating an even better sound in the process. In today’s rapidly changing digital world, you need to think on your feet, be open to experimentation, and change direction according to the market and your client’s needs. Successful companies aren’t like a rigid symphony orchestra. They’re more like jazz bands: require some discipline but embrace spontaneity at the same time.
Encouraging creativity in the workplace is key to fostering innovative thinking within your organization. This enables the agility to quickly adapt to new trends and business shifts, and to identify and seize opportunities created by these changes.
Fred Cook is Chief Information Officer, BlueShore Financial