What Companies Can Learn From 'Game of Thrones' When Hiring Their Next Chief Information Officer

What Companies Can Learn From 'Game of Thrones' When Hiring Their Next Chief Information Officer
Image credit: Game of Thrones | HBO
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As a business grows, the hiring of a chief information officer (CIO) can be hugely important. They have full control over company’s technology, which now touches every area of a business. Whether they’re risk-averse or spendthrift, how a CIO handles their everyday challenges can determine the overall success of the IT department and the company as a whole.
 
While you don’t need to travel to Westeros to find the right person, there are many helpful lessons to learn from Game of Thrones (GOT) when identifying the ideal type of CIO that fits your organization's needs. As many GOT fanatics already know, each Great House in the show has a unique culture and their leaders have distinct philosophies of governing, much like C-level executives. There is much that hiring managers can learn from the Great Houses when assessing the appropriate approach corporate IT, and this will affect which CIO is right for the organization.
 
Now that season five has ended (no spoilers here), we can still use the Great Houses as a reference, when analyzing he approaches that CIOs tend to take for IT.

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The risk-averse IT (House of Stark)

The Starks are always planning for the impending storm. In fact, the motto of this house is "Winter is Coming.” Currently, this family is in disarray, having been decimated by the Lannisters. It’s no wonder the Starks are panicking, or that they’d produce a risk-averse CIO. Stark CIOs expect the worst, and because of this, they make sure they have a disaster recovery plan on hand as well as security and business continuity capabilities to fend off the coming tempest.
 

The bootstrap IT (House Greyjoy)

Greyjoys -- or the “Ironborn,” as they call themselves -- don’t invest in the long term. Why bother “sowing,” when they can just take by force what others have sown? Truthfully, it’s doubtful that the harsh and bleak Iron Islands would yield anything even if they DID sow, but that’s beside the point. Greyjoy CIOs prefer to bootstrap IT and fight the fires immediately in front of them (sometimes they even start the fires). Too bad the Greyjoys don’t realize that investing for the long term might actually help them conquer the mainland, as opposed to just raiding their neighbors and taking castles they can’t hold.
 

The Ivory Tower IT (House Arryn)

House Arryn has the reputation of being a prideful clan due to their heritage. Like the Arryns, Ivory Tower CIOs can be found hiding out somewhere far away from the C-suite. They are very involved in what they do and are completely disinterested in the other inner workings of the company. CIOs who think and act this way are cutting themselves out of important conversations and will rarely be in the loop. Just like House Arryn, CIOs who act this way will eventually find themselves losing their seat at the decision-making table.

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Slash and burn IT (House Targaryen)

House Targaryen has been the ruling house of the seven kingdoms for nearly 300 years. As the only house with dragons, they got their by force fire and blood (not surprisingly, this is the Targaryen house motto). Targaryen CIOs would definitely confront IT issues head-on, unafraid to start from scratch by ripping out infrastructure and performing forklift upgrades. As a result, Targaryen CIOs might add to the chaos that is IT and might benefit from a more measured approach.
 

Compliant IT (House Tully)

When House Targayen invaded Westeros, Lord Tully was among the first to welcome the invaders. Therefore, members of the House of Tully are loyal, gentle, and rarely push boundaries. Like some CIOs, they are rule abiding and play it safe. Tully CIOs don’t surprise anyone. Although they may be a bit boring, they can be trusted not to take any risks or make any rash decisions (which can be both good and bad!).
 

Spendthrift IT (House Lannister)

As the richest house in Westeros, the Lannisters “always pay their debts.” They can afford to, as they literally sit on top of a gold mine. They have been known to buy friends from among their enemies and fund armies of mercenaries with Lannister gold. Similarly, Lannister CIOs will choose to spend their way out of their problems and would never hesitate to outsource. The only problem for a Lannister CIO – and the Lannisters – is what happens when the money runs out?

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Adaptable IT (House Tyrell)

Known for making alliances, the Tyrells are noted for being strange -- and frequent - political bedfellows. Tyrell CIOs will focus their efforts on meeting everyone’s expectations and on networking extensively within the C-suite. They would be very good at wooing the CFO for more budget while simultaneously working with business users to move the company forward. Tyrell CIOs would perhaps be the most levelheaded of all the CIOs listed -- and ultimately the most likely to keep their heads (in business and in fantasy novels).
 

Control freak IT (House Baratheon)

Power-hungry House Baratheon is more focused on getting the crown and less on brotherly love. Each brother -- Stannis and Renly -- wanted control and would not yield to anyone else, not even to each other. Control freak CIOs are unwilling to make any change they deem unnecessary and can be bullies in their management tactics. Baratheon CIOs will get the job done but perhaps at the expense of the feelings of those around them.

Related: 4 Leadership Styles Showcased on 'Game of Thrones'

Independent IT (House Martell)

House Martell was the only house to successfully fend off the Targaryen forces, and they did so through guerilla warfare. This house is culturally, ethnically and politically distinct from the rest of the kingdoms. Martells are one of a kind and are rarely swayed into changing their beliefs or values. These kinds of CIOs know how to keep their budgets aligned and intact. In addition, they know how to keep the line of business from encroaching on what has traditionally been IT’s domain.
 
As most companies are finding out, IT is a high-stakes game (although the likelihood of actually dying while playing in the real world is quite low). Which kind of CIO is best for your company?

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