When Lisa Jasper and I presented on innovation at an internal meeting this past summer, we put together a spoof of a Cosmopolitan magazine cover called “CIO-POLITAN.” We had a blast coming up with the cover and risqué article titles that were along the lines of those you’d find in Cosmo. The point of the presentation was to introduce three different disruptive innovation types CIOs and CTOs might fall into. Here’s how Lisa defined them in her recent blog post:

Type #1 – The Frustrated Futurist

The Frustrated Futurist CIO sees the threats and opportunities of disruptive technology innovation. Unfortunately, his business executives don’t think technology is particularly strategic. Even if they think it is relevant, they think there are better places for investment. We sometimes run across this persona in very capital intensive industries, where technology spend is minimized in order to maximize investment in “core” areas.

Type #2 – The Scatter Brain

The Scatter Brain CIO (or CTO) is getting some pressure from her CEO, and possibly other business executives, to “be more innovative”. It isn’t clear exactly what her CEO wants, but example desires range from very incremental to completely radical innovations. In some ways, this is the hardest situation; The strategic imperative is unclear and is more of a wish than a commitment.

Type #3 – The Hot Pants

The Hot Pants CIO (or more often, CTO) is in an industry where disruptive innovation isn’t just part of the strategy, it is the strategy. The company itself and its industry as a whole are likely already experiencing a fair amount of disruption related to technology. The company is in a “do or die” situation; the panic has left them unsure which way to go.

All three types have their own challenges, but I think that the Hot Pants CIO/CTO is the type I’ve seen most often. The Hot Pants CIO/CTO is in the “hot seat” because the company is facing a dire competitive threat and the CIO is feeling pressure from their CEO to save the company. Stakeholders, too, think that technology is the way out of their grim situation. The heat gets turned up to eleven when the CIO no longer has confidence in the CEO’s choices, which inspired what I hope will be the first of many listicles from “CIO-POLITAN”:

5 Signs It’s Time to Dump Your CEO

  1. He’s got his head in the sand: In response to the competitive threat your CEO says your company has a long history and has had rocky times in the past but we’ll get through it! Not so fast! A number of sources have reported that the lifespan of a typical S&P 500 company has been falling for the past 50 years. Whether it is due to disruptive innovation, acquisition, or just bad luck, companies are being tossed out of the S&P 500 every few weeks. There is no telling when your company will be next, so you have to stay on top of your game!
  2. He’s not asking you out anymore: You are not being included in key meetings and are out of the loop with other executives. During this competitive threat crisis, you and your CEO should be working very closely. If he isn’t interested, then you are being set up to fail.
  3. He’s not willing to experiment: Is your CEO unwilling to put money into technology unless there is a clear, low-risk business case? Boring! To stay innovative, you have to be willing to try new things and learn from failure.
  4. He’s not willing to work on things: The solution to your competitive threat crisis will be complex, potentially spanning things like a new organizational structure, a fresh delivery model, and a revitalized culture. If he’s not willing to try a few new things, it’s not going to work. You have to spice it up!
  5. He won’t bring in a third (or fourth, or fifth…): The CIO can’t be expected to figure everything out alone. The CEO and CIO need to bring innovative technology and business leaders into ideation. Whether you are redesigning your delivery model or searching for technological solutions to your business problems, it helps to have a few others to lend a hand.

Hot Pants innovators are in a tough position. By its nature, disruption is hard to recover from, but it is impossible if you, your CEO, and your executive team can’t align and cooperate to find the right solution. Recognizing the red flags around you will help you make the right decisions for the business, and for yourself.

That said, if your relationship is anything other than businesslike, you may want to disregard the above suggestions…