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Participant thoughts

Stuart Beesley

CIO, Smiths Group, UK

I applied to join the Oxford CIO Academy when I was preparing to become CIO in my organisation – which I now am. I knew that I wanted something to support me in making this transition, and the programme was recommended to me by a colleague who had previously participated.

The parts of the programme focusing on the core concepts of CIO leadership were very useful. I particularly liked the session on where you should be spending your time. I’m actively trying to make sure that I’m not just inward-looking, but allocate time to spend with customers and broaden my external viewpoint. I don’t want to be sucked into day-to-day technical problem-solving.

Hints, tips, and reminders about leadership were scattered throughout the programme, and gave me plenty of ‘Aha’ moments. Ultimately, what it did was show me what good looks like. That enabled me to see where the gaps were in my own knowledge and experience, and think about how to close them. It’s a great catalyst for setting your own personal development agenda. 

'You’ve got to shift your thinking and ask where you can add value.'

One of the most powerful sessions for me – I have certainly not forgotten it – was Mark Ruskino’s highly interactive session on ‘Every industry will be digitally remastered’. We were organised into small groups before an introductory conversation about how companies can innovate. And in fact, in theory at any rate, it’s not that hard – but you do have to get the right people in place, and the right sort of thinking, and create the right sort of atmosphere. In no time at all, we were sitting in our groups digitally reinventing everyday household objects. It showed us a new way of how we can look at and extend innovative thinking to our products.

It is true that part of the role of CIO is about maintenance: you’ve got to keep the lights on and the systems working. For many people it would probably be easy to stay in your office, monitoring screens, and doing little else. But, as this programme showed, to fill the role of CIO properly you’ve got to shift your thinking and start to ask where you can add value. How can you help the company create value, and get the company to move forward? 

It would be easy not to do that, I suppose, which is why I have been very consciously thinking about it since the programme, and trying to drive innovation and nudge the company in different directions.

'It’s a great catalyst for setting your own personal development agenda.'

I created an innovation forum which invites leaders in sales, marketing, R&D, and engineering to join where we bring in IT technology leaders to share information on disruptive technologies. This forum has now grown and includes circa 100 people who connect across the group. We’re looking at where we can encourage innovation, disrupt technology and share the art of the possible. In addition, we have set up some innovation pilots in some of the divisions with our external technology partners, trying to introduce new thinking and new products.

Smiths has such as wide range of industries in different sectors, from aerospace to hospitals, to security and sealing solutions. We don’t want to be reinventing the wheel all the time – if we create new technology we want to do it just once. However, there is lots of technology that we could take from one division and find a new application for it in another. There are also plenty of ideas that might have been abandoned as unworkable in one area but actually will function perfectly in another. There are many benefits of talking to each other, and my role is a natural one to help bring people together.

Key information

Course length - 4 days

3 - 6 May 2016

Cost: £5750 (inclusive of all teaching materials, assessments, feedback, and certification)

Contact us

Zindzi Cresswell

Business Development – Executive Education, Open Programmes

Saïd Business School

University of Oxford

T +44 (0)1865 422 514