It’s kind of intriguing, in some twisted way, that articles popped up like 8 Gadgets That Will Be Huge in 2010 or that 2009’s 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries includes MIT’s Media Lab. It makes you think, though, should CIOs spend some time every day mulling over consumer-oriented technologies like the Android, iPad, or music streaming? I think the answer is yes.
Think beyond viewing consumer tech as a distraction. One of the benefits of taking the CIO enterprise hat off periodically is to imagine ways in which business strategies and behaviors can take advantage of them. For example, one health system CIO remarked last year that embedding humorous videos inside the help text in the training systems for doctors was a way to get them to take the training. And social technologies permeate every shred of marketing advice today, of course. But beyond spicing up the systems you oversee, in today’s 24×7 world, your constituents are themselves consumers — and that spills into their workday, whether they’re in the office or working at home. Their gadgets come to work with them on the commuter train, buzz up your network, and beg to be supported by your help desk. Head-down and avoidance tactics cement IT into its “them” side — far away from “us.”
Keep the gadget-curious folks — they help you help business. Every organization has them — early adopters who run out and get the latest v1.0 of iThis or iThat — gizmos for music, family photo cameras, movies, and photo sharing, These folks are surprisingly valuable to an IT organization, even as it appears they are stalling on those maintenance upgrades for MS Office. Although they may be imperfect at your cross-enterprise agenda, they bring an enthusiasm that is contagious. And they know about the latest and greatest of everything your peers in the business also read about on airplanes or hear on the news or in the press. At the same time, they’re up on the state of the gadget/gizmo art and have the long view of skepticism about whether a gadget does what it is purported to do — or hoses your network. You need them and their overall tech optimism, and it can’t hurt you to retain a bit of time for that yourself. After all, most likely you are the first line of tech defense for all that stuff in your own immediate and extended family.