Think Big

Five Lessons from IBM’s Annual Tech Conference

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Last week, we had the privilege of attending IBM Think 2019, a far-reaching four-day conference in San Francisco that attracted more than 22k innovators.  The event featured 150 keynotes and more than 2,000 different sessions, all focused on leading technologies and how they will shape our collective future. 

We were at Think managing social media for IBM Watson Talent and IBM Collaboration Solutions, but had full access to the learning landscape. It was inspiring, thought-provoking and filled with a-ha moments. Here are five of our key takeaways:

#1 No job untouched. 

As IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said in her opening address, “100 percent of jobs will be impacted by technology in the next two years.” Businesses — and each of us — need to be open to change and proactively looking at how technology will impact our industries, product offering and the way we work. 

This is as true for marketing as it is any industry — how will we leverage data to create compelling content that touches our audience in meaningful ways? It’s no longer enough to create amazing campaigns — you need the data to back it up and ensure it’s seen.

#2 It’s all about skills.

copy writer and data analyst

We heard it over and over again: We’re living in a skills economy. It’s no longer good enough to have a long resume filled with impressive experience and accomplishments. If you’re not developing new skills for a new way of working, you risk irrelevance. We loved hearing Ginni talk about the rise of “new collar jobs” — jobs that are neither white collar or blue collar but answer a need for a new class of tech worker who may or may not need a four-year college degree to succeed.    

It’s an era of lifelong learning, continuous change and an ever-evolving global landscape. For the Dobbins Group, this is particularly exciting as we look at our own service offering and the ways we can help our business partners stay ahead of the game. One example: We’re beefing up our analytics arm to better leverage data to shape every marketing campaign.    

#3 New jobs.

According to many studies, 65% of children now in school will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t even exist today. Again, this speaks to the massive impact technology will have on every aspect of our lives, especially in the way we work. For business leaders, that means eyes wide open to what’s coming and how it will impact your company, your employees, your customers and your offering.  

#4 Culture drives success. 

You can have the greatest technology in the world, but it’s all for naught without a strong culture and an aligned team. Are you living your core values? Do you have a culture that fosters innovation? How is your culture reflected to the outside world?

We saw many examples of this during Think, from the diversity-focused #BeEqual campaign to the “returnship” program that helps former stay-at-home moms and retired military re-enter the tech space. In the HR sphere, we saw IBM’s cultural DNA shine through in many ways, especially in how Watson helps overcome bias in the hiring process.  

 #5 Our stories matter. 

It’s easy to get consumed in the “wow” factor around technology and the ways that it will make us faster, smarter and more efficient; but we can’t lose sight of the stories that speak to our bigger why. IBM sees itself as so much more than a tech company, and that’s reflected time and time again in their marketing. AI and the Cloud hold the promise to create a better world for all, to tackle some of our biggest challenges — from environmental and health issues to new jobs and a more diverse workplace.

Here are a few of our favorites: 

Of course, #5 is music to our ears. The Dobbins Group prides itself in helping clients uncover and tell their unique stories. We love partnering with companies to help them create marketing campaigns that help them meet their goals with a compelling brand narrative. Technology will allow us all be better and better at what we do, but it’s the human stories that will help us stand apart. 

What story will your company tell in 2019 and beyond? How will you Think Big?

Let’s talk.

Steve Dobbins and Jason Leon of the Dobbins Group at IBM Think