Rumination: The Sign of a Sentient CIO

Cow with calf in a field ruminatingDefine rumination as to ruminate which is to think deeply about something. For CIO’s it is a crucial skill that must be developed and nurtured. It is also a deliberate decision making process (rumination) involving thoughtful contemplation. The ability to turn issues and options over and over in the mind while allowing our feelings and impressions to develop before acting. This is what separates the sentient beings, including CIO’s, from all others.

Rumination Techniques

I have given a lot of attention to topics of involving strategy and planning. These topics span technology decisions as well as service delivery and support areas. I have covered building teams and tips on leadership and management and the CIO career. Throughout I have tried to include CIO brain food with interesting ideas from TED while offering practical examples and tools you can use immediately.

But it occurs to me today that I have neglected to remind us all that it is essential we set aside regular time for rumination. No email or IM interruptions. Cell phone off. There are times when I even need to turn off the computers and move to a table next to my white board with 9 or 10 pieces of 11×17 paper from tray 4 and a pencil. Then brain dump to white board – transfer to paper – revise and repeat.

I use this process to outline decisions that are coming up. To create visuals I will use in communicating key concepts to the organization or in preparing presentations. I use it to revisit earlier proposals and the current plan of work to do the tick and tie of promises to outcomes. I use it to validate my understanding of new ideas in mock kitchen table explanation.

But I mostly carve out time to just work through concepts and ideas. To force a reshuffling of beliefs and assumptions in order to be sure I am assimilating the information I am taking in. This is about making the critical associations of new ideas to old ones as part of evolving my systems view. It is from this mixing and matching of a diverse and broad base of input where insights and innovation are born. But if you do not allow for the process to occur you never reap the dividends of the information stream you take in.

Let’s face it, between all of the committee and project team meetings, emails, phone calls, team meetings and one-on-ones and a stream from newsletters, magazines, webinars and new research you have to devote time to digesting everything. If you simply fill your calendar so you end up running from meeting to meeting where you sit in the Blackberry prayer position processing your inbox you will not be maximizing your contribution.

Allowing your day to manage you often puts you entirely into a stream of consciousness mode of decision making that in the long run does not produce the best results or make effective use of your day. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of decisions and things where that approach is good enough, but there are just as many if not more were it just won’t cut it. I am also not suggesting anything close to analysis by paralysis or an even more insidious behavior – redecisioning or what might considered a rumination syndrome.

Rumination Habits

Just to check yourself on this, open your calendar and block 45 minutes before next Wednesday. Come in early if you have to. Then with your door closed and only a blank piece of paper and a pencil, describe cloud computing in 800 words or less. Be sure you account for the characteristics of cloud computing, the service models and the deployment models. Then give a mock whiteboard overview of cloud computing in 5 minutes or less.

As prominent as cloud computing is today this is something every CIO should be able to do. Once you have mastered that, expand your repertoire to include converged infrastructure, application modernization, or technology risk management.

Now a word about the sexy girl in the photo. She’s not one of those pampered Hollywood cows you find in stock photo collections or see on TV. She is a real world cow who lives over the hill from me at the William’s place. She’s a new mom who I see almost every day and often stop to visit with her before heading home since she is such a good listener.

Like you, this girl has a lot on her mind, what with her normal responsibilities to gain weight and the added burden of taking care of her calf. Like all of us, we have much more than work on our minds that consumes our attention. So I hope you take to heart the idea of developing your rumination skills and for setting aside time for rumination.

PS – If you have a photo of a deep thinking girl with four stomachs, send it along.

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