At Google’s 2011 Atmosphere conference Google attempted to answer one question; what does it really take to be innovative?

In front of 350 Fortune 500 CIO’s, speakers used example after example to drive home the point that innovation comes from collaboration not just inspired thought.

Dr. Astro Teller explained how Ben Franklin sat in coffee houses discussing the theory of electricity.  How Gutenberg created the printing press after visiting a winery and learning about wine presses.  Vince Cerf, the inventor of TCP/IP discussed how TCP/IP only came into existence though the collaborative efforts of many different teams across different companies.  The point was succinctly captured by Steven Johnson who coined his speech – chance favors the connected mind.  Innovation doesn’t simply occur.

Businesses today must figure out how to enable an inter-disciplinary exchange of ideas.  This means real-time collaboration and socialization.  As CIO’s, the greatest struggle is to build this collaborative and socially-enabled IT infrastructure that retains a level of control especially as more and more consumer products (iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, etc.) make their way into the organization.

This point was not lost on this audience.  CIO after CIO articulated this point in their own words; each acknowledging that Google’s collaborative products is certainly one crucial step.

Most CIOs admitted to struggling with finding the right balance between corporate governance and collaborative flexibility.  And to make matters harder, their users are putting more and more demands on their IT department by expecting support for their consumer products.

By no means trivial, each CIO had their own plan for overcoming these challenges. The CIOs I spoke with seemed to have the same three items on their list for 2012 initiatives:

1.     Developing and executing a comprehensive cloud strategy
2.     Adapting existing IT governance and controls to better accommodate a cloud strategy
3.     Device agnostic mobile management strategies

These seemingly universal challenges are those that CIOs across all organizations will face in the months ahead. The content forced participants to think big. Through Atmosphere 2011, the best and brightest forward-thinking CIOs sought answers and shared concerns.

– Aric Bandy