I just returned from an opening cocktail reception and dinner to kickoff the IBM Global Information Outlook (GIO) event in San Francisco. Before I dive into what I've experienced so far, let me give you some background on the event and its objectives (from the website):
The nature of innovation is changing rapidly -- it's happening faster, it's much more open and collaborative, and it’s increasingly multi-disciplined. That’s why IBM started the Global Innovation Outlook (GIO), an ongoing worldwide dialogue that examines the changing nature of innovation in areas that could generate the greatest benefit for business, society and technology.
There a couple of things that strike me right away. While the intent of the GIO is to examine the changing nature of innovation, I find the fact that IBM is behind this program to be extremely innovative in its own right. When you work in the Silicon Valley and the tech community you can't help but meet people who either currently work for IBM or have worked for IBM. They're everywhere. Talking with them tonight gave me a new perspective on what it takes for a company as large as IBM to remain innovative. You can't just talk about it, you have to live it. IBM has a full day planned tomorrow, but even after three plus hours of beginning to understand what this event is about, I've come to appreciate the significance of a company like IBM engaging its community to tackle a set of global issues. The themes are environment, transportation and mobility. No, not PCs, servers, global services and mainframes - perhaps what you'd think a company like IBM might discuss at its own event. I suspect that everyone will participate, one way or another, on the innovation taking place in the areas of environment, transportation and mobility. You'd better hope so...
Another thing that strikes me is the location of this event. Right here in San Francisco - next door to, or in the middle of, depending on your viewpoint, the Silicon Valley. How's that for a wake up call? Let's hold an innovation summit in the "capital" of technical innovation. Where did the sun go? Oh, it's dipping behind the Oracle towers in Redwood City. Hey, does this hotel have wireless broadband? I don't know but the black box in the corner says Cisco. Call them and have a technician dispatched from their HQ down the road. My laptop is slow. Really? You could probably get someone from Intel to take a look. Drive to Santa Clara and look for the big buildings on the left side of 101. What's that song I hear? Oh, that's an iPod on Apple's Cupertino campus. How do I get to San Francisco? Have you tried calling Yahoo! in Sunnyvale or Google in Mountain View for directions? Thanks, I'm headed to San Francisco to join a group of people assembled by IBM to talk about global innovation. Where? Who? What? When?
What you'll sense from this post is my excitement for the day ahead. I'm a child among giants. I'm here to absorb and watch innovation unfold in front of me. I'll do my best to document what I've learned so we can share it and learn together. This is a terrific example of a large organization making time to listen. We talk about participating in conversations. How online communication programs are reshaping the information sharing process. That information is presented, discussed and shared faster than ever before. The first step to all of this is listening. You've got to listen and learn before you can discuss. I get a sense that listening is a big part of this event.
I've also got to meet as many people as possible so when I'm done absorbing what is being discussed, I can process it and share it with others. And I'll sound a lot smarter if I don't share it with people who were actually here.