Repeat after me.

If it’s a hit on the consumer web, it will be morphed to the enterprise. If it’s a hit on the consumer web, it will be morphed to the enterprise. If it’s a hit on the consumer web …

This is what today’s CIOs need to know now if they want to remain viable for tomorrow. If they fail to heed the lesson, they risk being perceived as “failing to lead” and their reigns may be short-lived.

Welcome to the era of consumerized IT where users demand that the intuitive, friendly technologies they grow to know and love in their personal lives be provided for them at work. And if they’re not, they’ll acquire them on their own.

Heads up IT managers, anyone with an internet connection can play CIO. If you don’t introduce cool, new technologies, they will be crowd-sourced. And if enough employees embrace the same technology, it will become a standard. They’ll be no need for selection committees or implementation teams.

Your new mission will then be a never-ending struggle to control something that can’t be controlled and to prove your relevancy to the enterprise.

It Doesn't Have to Be This Way

You can be the forward thinker who sponsors a Blackberry trade-in, who introduces BYOD (bring your own device) and super cool enterprise iPad and iPhone apps. Who doesn’t have to police internal Facebook and Twitter usage because you’ve already rolled-out Yammer, Chatter, SocialCast, Syncplicity, Jive, Box or their many counterparts? And when it comes to security and compliance, many of your end-users won’t have to be mindful of them because the vendors that you have selected have built them in.

Your experience as an IT manager could be delightful ... instead of being a cop you can be a candy man.

OK, so maybe I’m being a little over the top, but the essence of what I’m saying is vital. You need to be vigilant about knowing what’s on the tech hotlist of the masses. This is now a part of your job. And if you’re already doing that, that’s great.

Last week we saw the introduction of Airtime, Sean Parker’s new start-up. We wouldn’t have paid it much mind, except Parker’s no dummy. The founder of Napster who then latched on to Facebook must have something going on; he not only created Plaxo and Causes as well, but he’s worth US$ 2.1 billion (not bad for a guy who’s in his early 30’s).

It is, at minimum, safe to say that he knows how to build (or to recognize) products and services that people will want. And he also knows how to get attention, which matters. The greatest technology in the world isn’t widely adopted unless it’s cool and enough cool people know about it.

Enabling Serendipity

So when I heard that Parker was going to appear on Jimmy Fallon to introduce a new innovation, I tuned in. Parker and Napster co-founder Sean Fanning demoed Airtime, a Facebook connected application where strangers with common interests share video chats.

When I first heard the description, I thought “oh brother.” In concept it looked like Chatroulette, the online chat website that pairs strangers from around the world together for webcam-based conversations. Why would Parker create a knock-off of a site that has failed to thrive because its primary audience was young men who wanted to video chat in the buff?

Then, I paid attention not so much to the star-studded demo (featuring the likes of Snoop Dogg, Jim Carrey, and Alicia Keys) which was a failure, but to what Parker was saying. And though he was panning Facebook there was something to it.

Facebook isn’t helping you make new connections, Facebook doesn’t develop new relationships, Facebook is just trying to be the most accurate model of your social graph. There’s a part of me that feels somewhat bored by all of this. There’s no room for serendipity.”

It was that last word serendipity that won my attention. How much of that do we have in the workplace? How do two people who work for the same company, but don’t work on the same projects or in the same department ever meet? And if they don’t work in the same city (and possibly even if they do), they’re unlikely to know about who the other is and what they do. When it comes to accomplishing the task at hand, this doesn’t matter. But when it comes to innovation, it might matter a lot.

Two heads, two sets of ideas, two frames of reference could actually create something new, or a new way of getting things done … and a technology like Airtime could facilitate that.

Think about it, accidental meetings inside and outside of the enterprise could very well have value -- remember the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial when the guy eating peanut butter collides with the guy eating chocolate?