Gregor Cuzak

on marketing, business and philosophy

CIO – Chief Innovation Officer


NIL, the company I head marketing in, has CIOs as its target group. We provide them with unrivaled level of service for their IT infrastructure needs. We’re a global leader in infrastructure integration.

Our major challenge lies in helping them, CIOs, transform their roles from chief information officers into chief innovation officers. A small change in the naming, yet a leap for their organisations.

Information, as a term, is extremely hard to pin down. An IT guy’s knee jerk response to this would be “bollocks”, and in the next sentence he would start telling me about bits, you know, the 1s and 0s.

Well, again, information is extremely hard to pin down. Let me show you why.

Let me start from the story of bits. We start with one bit, its value is set to 1. Add another bit, also with a value of 1. Add another, same, and again, and again. Let’s say we end up with 100 bits, all set to 1. One hundred ones. By the bollocks-guy definition this is 100 bits of information. Which is precisely wrong.

One hundred ones in a sequence can be signified by simply stating that there are ‘a hundred bits of one’. To make it more extreme, ‘a billion bits of one’ would take up roughly 125 MB of memory in a computer, whereas my way of storing the same information would take about a byte of information for each letter in the words “billion bits of one”, i.e. 19 bytes.

And the ambivalence doesn’t end just there.

The word billion, itself a 7 byte string could be further reduced if written in powers of 10, i.e. a billion is 10^9, itself a 4 byte string.

Yet again, the ambivalence persists.

A 10 is a 2 byte string if written in letters, yet in base 2 it’s just 4 bits, 1010, or half of a byte. Same with 9, it’s 4 bits in base 2, namely 1001. Hence a billion (7 bytes) is 10^9 (4 bytes) is “1010””^””1001″ (2 bytes).

And again, the ambivalence does not just stop there. I claim that it never stops, yet this could blow some heads, therefore I will stop here, but for the curious ones go and study the legacies of Cantor, Gödel or Turing.

Let me go back to information and its relationship with innovation.

I will stay in the world of language, a tool I personally consider as infinitely stronger than the world of mathematics.

Information is data with a spark of insight.
Innovation is the occurence of change resulting from the spark of insight.

Data is collected, stored and transported.
Information happens when data is processed and understood.
Innovation is the creative change that occurs from understanding.

The worst kind of CIO is actually a chief data officer. He collects data, stores it and transports it. He does not understand that he needs to make sure good quality data enters into his systems. Garbage in, garbage out, it’s true here as in any other job.

One level above the chief data officer is the CIO of today, the chief information officer. He has the data and sees how it is processed, which already gives him insights. Yet he does not transform insights into adding of value to the company and to the customer. He stops there because he thinks this is not his job. In such cases he is worse than the data officer, because he knows that he could help, but he doesn’t. Is he afraid? Is he lazy? Lack of confidence?

The level of the future is the chief innovation office. He could also be chief change officer. His key role is acting on the basis of the insights he gets from data and its processing. He sees what could be done, and he goes ahead to do it. Actually, his is in the best position in the whole company to be the change that he would like to see in his company.

The change from ’data-CIO’ to ‘information-CIO’ to ‘innovation-CIO’ is foremost a personal change, however once the personal change happens, change in company starts occuring.

The insight of CIO name-change described above came from my colleague Petra Oseli, just yesterday. Petra is NIL’s external data analysis consultant, or better, the way we call her, marketing intelligence. And I am deeply grateful for the work and effort she puts into making us successful.

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