CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 22

you say, “Don’t steal the candy bar,” and there are no social
repercussions. That is a very small example of a very
interesting phenomenon: Those without a stake in the system
are free to make what often are necessary but difficult
decisions and choices.

in place, it might have blocked his ability to cure the disease.
In this case, Freireich was not an outsider, in the sense of
being at the fringes of his profession. He was an outsider in
the sense that he was in a marginal field, one that was
marked by failure and that had run out of ideas.

What about new insights into old problems? You said
this often comes with being an outsider.

Are people at the margins also motivated because they
want to come in from the cold – because they want to
gain recognition and enter the inner circle?

The person on the periphery is at the intersection of worlds,
his or her own world and adjacent ones. The person in the
middle is not intersecting with anyone different.
Freireich got his brilliant idea about combining drugs from
the infectious disease world. That is partly because he was
fresh out of medical school, where you are rubbing shoulders
with all kinds of different people. He was also at an organization – the National Institutes of Health – that was a big
jumble of people from every conceivable area of medical
science. He lived in the same neighborhood, ate in the same
cafeteria, took the same bus home – it was impossible not to
be exposed to different perspectives.
People at the center of cancer research never think about
infectious diseases. They think about cancer. They have been
studying it for 25 years. They go to cancer meetings with
other cancer specialists. They are renowned for their
expertise in a narrow area.
Freireich was not at the center, he was at the edge. He was as
likely to run into an infectious disease guy as it was for him
to run into an oncologist. He was marginal to the workings of
oncology. By virtue of being on the fringes, he was able to
see a vaster universe than someone who was at the center.

And what is the motivation that drives someone
operating on the periphery?
Freireich was driven to try out his extraordinary idea because
every one of his patients was dying. No one had any clue
how to help these kids. Because of this, he was able to
passionately make the case that it was worth trying something radical. Had there been even a half-way good therapy

People at the center of cancer research
never think about infectious disease.
They think about cancer. They’ve been
studying it for 25 years. They go to cancer
meetings with other cancer specialists.
They’re renowned for their expertise
in a narrow area.

Yes, I think there is an ego motivation and appropriately so.
To take social risks, you need a strong ego, a desire to make
your voice heard.
There is a danger here, though. When we get successful, we
get locked into a notion that what we should always be doing
is moving from the outside to the inside. A family gets
successful, and they become convinced that if they send their
kid to one of four colleges, they will be fine. But when that
kid graduates from Harvard or Yale or whatever, everyone
gets it in their head that if he does well maybe he should get
his MBA from Harvard or Wharton. Now the short list of
schools is just two. He goes into the business world and his
business gets successful and they get it in their head that the
only place to get advice is from McKinsey or Goldman
Sachs. You get a narrower and narrower and narrower
version of what it means to be an effective organization. You
forget all of the extraordinary benefits that come from being
on the margins, being far from the center.

What examples of innovation at the margins do you see
in business?
Think of Jeff Bezos at Amazon. His original business was
book retailing, an industry in decline and hardly at the center
of things. He has been written off by the experts numerous
times, most famously at the time of the first dot-com bust,
when people compared Amazon to the high-flying but
ill-fated Pets.com. Since then, his business model has more
than once run into a brick wall.
But he has responded brilliantly to the challenges he’s faced
over the past 15 years, constantly reinventing Amazon out of
desperation. Now it turns out he has created a company that
is going head-to-head with Apple, one of the dominant
players in business.
You could say that hitching his wagon to the falling star of
book retailing gave him advantages he would not have had if
he would have hitched his wagon to some glittering star.

If I run a business or a business function, how do I
foster in my organization the advantages of the
marginal player?
Obviously, you have to have a tolerance for experimentation
and failure. To go back to the National Cancer Institute, part
of the organizing mission of the people running it was, “As a
government entity, we need to do weird things and take
chances in tackling impossible problems. There are tons of

22

// CIO Straight Talk


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CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2

CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2
Contents
So What Do CIOs Want
Innovation at the Periphery
The CIO as Thought Leader
Career Move: From Managing Technology to Managing Change
Every CIO is in the Information Business
Analytics and Decision Making
Putting IT at the Center of the Customer Experience
Pick n Pay Focuses on Delivering Value to Customers
Bringing "Lean" to IT
Whither the Cloud in a Stormy IT Enviroment?
Management by Driving a Stake in the Ground
From Data Processing to Orchestrating Knowledge
Extreme Collaboration
Enterprise Mobility: Delivering the Connected Customer Experience
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Cover2
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 3
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Contents
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 5
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - So What Do CIOs Want
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 7
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 8
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 9
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 10
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 11
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 12
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 13
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 14
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 15
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 16
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 17
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Innovation at the Periphery
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 19
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 20
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 21
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - The CIO as Thought Leader
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 23
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 24
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 25
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Career Move: From Managing Technology to Managing Change
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 27
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 28
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 29
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Every CIO is in the Information Business
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 31
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 32
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 33
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Analytics and Decision Making
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 35
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 36
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 37
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 38
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 39
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Putting IT at the Center of the Customer Experience
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 41
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 42
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Pick n Pay Focuses on Delivering Value to Customers
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 44
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 45
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 46
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Bringing "Lean" to IT
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 48
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 49
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 50
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Whither the Cloud in a Stormy IT Enviroment?
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 52
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 53
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 54
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 55
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Management by Driving a Stake in the Ground
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 57
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 58
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - From Data Processing to Orchestrating Knowledge
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 60
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 61
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Extreme Collaboration
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 63
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 64
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 65
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Enterprise Mobility: Delivering the Connected Customer Experience
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 67
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 68
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 69
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 70
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 71
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 72
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 73
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 74
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Cover3
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - Cover4
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