Many CIOs have risen up through the IT ranks. In some cases, a CIO might’ve started in a technical role such as application development or network management and gradually ascended into managerial and director-level responsibilities. In other instances, a CIO may have established him or herself in a particular discipline such as IT project management and progressively broadened their IT management competence.

Whatever path someone may have taken to become a CIO, it’s altogether likely that somewhere along the way they had to stretch their leadership capabilities to get there.

Of course, once someone has reached a certain career level – be it director, VP, SVP or above – that person’s personal and professional growth hasn’t plateaued. At least it shouldn’t have -- not if they have aspirations for taking on greater responsibilities.

The dynamic nature of business continually creates new opportunities and challenges for the CIO. For CIOs who work for international companies or those that have set their sights on geographic expansion, this includes finding new ways to help the enterprise to compete and excel in the global marketplace.

Even for those CIOs who have taken steps over the years to augment their business knowledge, an organization’s push into a new geographical, product, or service market requires learning. One effective way to sharpen these skills is by job shadowing the top business leader in this area.

Rewriting the CIO playbook

There are multiple ways to learn more about new business opportunities from a business peer. Drive-by meetings, lunches, and asking to attend business unit strategy meetings can help CIOs gain a deeper understanding of the market dynamics the enterprise is exploring.

Entering new markets often requires new approaches to thinking. CIOs can strengthen their own capabilities and demonstrate new approaches to problem solving by studying the successes and failures of established players that venture into new markets as well as upstarts that conceive new market opportunities.

By developing their knowledge and understanding of new markets, CIOs can draw on their existing competencies to identify methods for applying people, processes, and technologies to tackle emerging or as-yet untapped business opportunities.

CIOs who stretch themselves to embark upon new market opportunities can position themselves to help drive disruptive innovation and enable the business to chart a new course for growth. Sometimes it’s not just about a CIO stretching him or herself beyond their comfort zone. In many cases, it’s more about a CIO’s ability to push his or her IT team to take risks, to challenge assumptions, and tap their creative juices to help drive the enterprise into new territories.

What are some additional ways that the CIO can stretch themselves in the competitive landscape? Please join the HMG Strategy network discussion to share your thoughts and vision.