Google CIO Ben Fried Makes Change A Core Competency

March 14, 2016
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by Peter High, published on Forbes


I interviewed Ben Fried, CIO of Google, on stage at the Forbes CIO Summit last week, and he offered a number of keen pieces of advice for his fellow CIOs.

He noted the following first principles that he operates under: people are creatures of habit, and yet technology has never moved as quickly as it is today.  As a result, CIOs need to make change a core competency. The ability to change is essential to stay competitive. Google is so worried about practices becoming ossified that they hold what are referred to as bureaucracy buster days. Employees from across the company identify areas where bureaucracy has seeped into the company, note them, and projects are devised to destroy them.

Fried said, “IT sits in middle of some hard realities. On the one hand, people are creatures of habit. On the other hand, computing is arguably the fastest moving discipline in the history of the enterprise. Realizing the advantages that come from computing’s rate of innovation means we have to force people out of their technology habits.” He notes that this will not happen without a push because of the strength of inertia. He said, “Plan on making changes every year, and on building an end-to-end technology team that flourishes in change. For example, if you think of the help desk as being about reading FAQs and recipes, that’s a cognitive dissonance — you’re acting as if change is bad.” He said that although many companies have outsourced the help desk, by so doing, they are not equipping the enterprise with the ability to change, as the help desk is a key weapon in any change management program.

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