“I think the CTO job has actually gotten more complicated now,” said Martha Collins, CTO, HarbisonWalker International. “There’s a constant clash as we get to be more and more quarterly, you know, the basic, every quarter is so important and now every week is so important and sometimes every day is so important.”
While Collins is assaulted with daily demands, she realizes her role as a CTO requires her to maintain a technology roadmap and think about the future of the company. If she’s not always consciously thinking about that she and her team could easily eat up their daily hours just adhering to daily tasks.
In an effort to force herself and her team to be always thinking about the future, she has instituted two different programs.
The first program Collins has dubbed, “Freedom Friday,” in which she lets all her scientists and engineers take every other Friday off to do whatever they want for that day. The only requirement is that the work has to be something for which they believe will benefit the company. In just one year the “Freedom Friday” program has generated two new products for HarbisonWalker.
The other program, for which Collins readily admits she stole from the Harvard Business Review, is called “Thinking Inside the Box.” It’s an exercise which requires you to answer a series of questions to better help you understand your core needs. This process helps direct Collins’ group to be structured about their thinking. The argument against “Thinking Outside the Box” is that it just leads to chaotic thinking.
“It’s just putting in sort of processes and mechanisms that make sure that people are thinking about tomorrow and the future and how we create future value,” said Collins.
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