Thursday, October 6, 2016

That's Why They Call It Leadership

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Reprinted from my internal, IBM blog, "Learning to Lead":

"That's why they call it leadership," were the final remarks of Oxford Professor Marc Ventresca at Oxford's session on "Beyond Disruption: Ideas with Impact". He was referring to how enterprises need a purpose and not just a mission, and specifically, provided the examples of CVS, opting no longer to sell tobacco products, since it's a healthcare company [I could argue that it shouldn't sell candy in that case either], and to Unilever, vowing to become an environmentally sustainable firm. At IBM, our purpose is to be essential. And in our [behind-the-firewall, internal-only] 1-3-9 Purpose, Values and Practices site, we can review, "What does 'being essential' look like to our clients? It’s seeing our passion for going above and beyond to meet their needs by applying our Practices to every aspect of the client experience."

What does being essential look like to our IBM Learning clients? Surprising and delighting IBMers, and increasingly IBM Business Partners, clients and prospective IBMers with learning experiences that help them build their skills. And how do we do keep doing what we already do well, that is, training leaders and sellers while in parallel venturing into training people for new roles, for example, Watsoners and Offering Managers? Or how do we keep doing what we already do well, e.g., face-to-face, classroom courses and online learning while at the same time experimenting with Virtual Reality, social technologies and Watson-powered robots for learning?

What is IBM Learning's purpose? It needs to go beyond our mission. Professor Ventresca quoted Lenovo's CMO, "The mission statement [merely] has to make sense; purpose has to resonate." Is our purpose to build skills of the new IBM? Let's try it: IBM Learning's purpose is to build skills of the new IBM. That resonates with me. How about with you?

Professor Ventresca started his remarks by using Kodak as an example of exploiting its core business while insufficiently exploring its new business opportunities. He explained that Kodak had patented 28 percent of digital technology, but didn't see the disruption of the web coming. If it had, it would have seen that the web made sharing electronic photos wildly easier and that they had viral potential. "Disruptive technology is not great initially, and then it becomes good enough, and then coupled with other things, it becomes transformational." Kodak was a relatively old example compared to his next, Uber, which is already moving from being a better taxi service to starting a driverless car venture. Why did Google buy Waze, asked Professor Ventresca, too. "To craft it's driverless strategy." And Tesla, he said, is not a car company as much as it's really trying to become the home battery company, trying to solve long-term battery storage.

On driverless technology, Professor Ventresca said, "It won't necessarily even be the best. It'll be the winning consortium." Another word for consortium, he explained, is ecosystem. "Be more of an ecosystem player and talk with groups from other organizations .... Establish disciplines for selecting, experimenting, funding and terminating new growth businesses .... Purpose," said the professor, "builds bridges across ecosystems."

Prior to the session, with beverages in our hands, participants did a bit of mingling. I was fortunate to talk with the head of Digital at Citi, along with the head of Oxford's Custom Executive Programs, and eventually the professor himself. I asked the Exec. ed. leader if she knew our own IBMer Michael Coleman, an Oxford alumnus, who does IBM recruiting at Oxford, and she said, "I've been in my role for just two months, but Marc [the professor] might."

Unfortunately, by the time the professor joined us, I missed the opportunity. In fact, as I write this, I wonder if Michael made our VP Guillermo aware of the event and if that was the genesis(!) During my pre-session conversations, I *was* able to learn that the head of Citi's Digital group had been an IBMer in Australia in the '90s, in the days of O/S2; that the head of Oxford's exec. ed. group had done her Doctorate on rocks on Mars -- and I mentioned that I had adored rocks and minerals as a child, and at 10, with my best friend Amy, had been the two youngest members of the Stamford Mineralogical Society; and that the professor and I both loved Chicago. We had lived there around the same time -- in my case, more than 20 years ago. The Citi leader exclaimed, "You're the best networker here: You found a connection between the two of us with IBM, with Elaine [the exec. ed. head] as a fellow lover of rocks and with the professor around Chicago." 

I wonder, if IBM, Oxford and Citi were introducing a disruptive technology together, what could it be, and would our ecosystem help us win over any competitors, introducing a similar disruptive technology?

For fun, here's a reminder of how easy it is to share photos over the web; I snapped this shot of the marvelous Chrysler building while approaching Oxford's offices on Fifth Avenue from 42nd Street:
Follow the professor on Twitter, like I now do, if you're also intrigued by his remarks.

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