I'm at Fortune BrainstormTech, an event that relates technology to the bigger problems it can solve. Tomorrow I am moderating a lunch lab on the problem of Governance, with Daniel Kaufmann, Director, Governance and Anti-Corruption, World Bank Institute.
Managing Editor Andy Serwer introduced Brainstorm to attendees as "a respite from the problems you work on and talk about bigger problems we can solve" and recommending "Try to be cool and immerse yourself in the stew of the people and what is about to happen."
"What makes it different is trying to understand technology in the context of how it is changing," said David Kirkpatrick. "A lot of reporters and bloggers are here, so whatever that means to you, keep it in mind."
What's Tech got to do with it?
- Marc R. Benioff
Founder, Chairman, and CEO
- Michael S. Dell
Chairman and CEO
- Gary Hamel
Director, Management Lab. (has a new book)
Visiting Professor, London Business School
- Christiane Salm
Is tech making the world better?
Dell: of course. Majority of the new internet users today are from developing countries, total is doubling from 1B to 2B in two years, 500k new internet users a day. Economic growth is driven by technology, but it is just the beginning. Is it changing politics? Sure, I'm not the world's expert on the topic. Sure, but that's why I asked. The whole idea of empowerment, the theme of this conference. One clear change is that countries used to be isolated and competitive. When you think about staying competitive individually, company or country, the dynamics are radically changed. Raises serious questions, particularly for developed societies, where here in the US we have a disperportion of the population vs. wealth. The pie will get a lot bigger and we have to adjust.
Hamel: Unarguably so. We have to think about our purposes for technology, and if they are getting better. The net is empowering people like never before in history. For the first time we are emancipating human imagination and it will change everything. You find creative apatheid in some places and we will put a light to it. My interest is in the social technology of management. We are using 100 year technology in the enterprise. The average company 100 years ago had 4 employees and 9/10 worked for themselves, but then in 25 years all that change, because of the invention of this kind of technology called management. We are going to see a bigger impact when technology changes the way organizations are structured and decisions are made. Something more dramatic in the beginning of this century and it will make a lot of managers today very uncomfortable..
Dell: We put our big ears on. Listened. But the mechanisms you could use to listen went massively turbocharged with the net. We will have 2B conversations with our customers this year. Somethign fundamentally different managerially? The nature of the tools changes how groups are formed and managed. A central top down organization will not be the most responsive, engaged and creative. We are creating new businesses all the time as teams see new opportunities and it is not as centrally planned as it once was.
Benioff: Its not just Michael talking with his customers, but his customers talking with each other and then talking with him as a collective. Something unprecedented. With IdeaExchange, with our product managers, they have less to do and do a better job. We have a lot less responsiblity and can look to the customers. Not listening to the customer, but collaborating, iterating and sharing. The innovations on Mystarbucksidea.com. CEOs are not superman, you can't do it all, and this technology lets you listen to the customer. The world is faster because of technology, not sure if it is better and dont want to get into the debate, keeping up with the acceleration, the internet as the great accelerator, will make our company better because we can listen.
Salm: I wonder if from a mangement perspective it becomes hard to manage the complexity. We have more data and it may be hard to decide and keep sight within speed. Managing companies with changes in organizational structures with network and heirarchies. 500 years ago Gutenberg was born in my town in Germany, allowed a new religion. Disruptions across industries, media having real real challenges, I think it will change our society more than it will change our businesses. Busnesses have to adapt, but societies do change and their change will have a bigger impact.
Is there is more willingness in Web 2.0 stuff to think in bigger terms?
Benioff: Clinton said a change in the world requires a change in conciousness. Even in our own myopic world, Scott from Intuit called it the fall of Rome. There is a big shift, with the internet. (he said web 3.0 so I stopped typing) We are going to get to a point where we see a radical step in terms of what this industry will deliver in the next 10 years.
Hamil in the late 18th cent
Hamil: structural reform needs to happen for the world to take advantage of this technology. we used to be isolated, now you can bring capital and talent from anywhere in the world. If you aren't part of that world you are still on the outside looking in. Where terrorism emerged. A lot more has to happen. I am optimistic, but don't want ot be pollyannish about how technology will even out disparities without other changes.
Salm: Germans are known for things, like mp3, but the business was made somewhere else. Competitive and entrepreneurial environment is not what we are good at, makes me sad, but our culture is not to take risk. Germany as a market always works because it is the largest. But I don't worry too much about it, we will be good enough to compete, and within Europe it is different. Scandinavia and UK pick up technology quickly. My worries for Europe are not about inventiveness, but rather demographics. Europe is growing substantially older than the US. What does that mean for the other trends?
Hamel: Sometimes we over estimate cultural differences, what most limits innovation is how we are managed. In the creative economy, it is working against us. Towers Perin survey of 80k people across the world about about how emotional and intellectually engaged they are at work, no more than 20% engaged. The scandal of management is that we habve feudal systems that are better at harnassing the customer's imagine than their employees. Whereever you look at technology it is not friendly to heriarchy.
Vint Cerf: The internet has show it is possible to do these things, so we can't go back, but we need to make it work. I agree with Mark about platforms for innovation, but innovation at scale is something that is new.
Benioff: What's new is the internet as a platform at scale. What it indicates to me is that if we are moving from transaction to collaboration to innovation -- this country needs innovation today.
Hamel: If you polled the top guys in the F500 50 years ago about if they could create the internet, the couldn't. It is imporant to have a competence to define you, but today it is more interesting to find your platfom advantage.
Esther Dyson: the word I heard missing was risk, a bigger difference than mangement when it comes to innovation. Now startups need little money to take the risk.
Dell: An advancement of technology can accelerate a disruption that is already happening, in the job market for example.
Benioff: With an increased focus and emphasis on risk, we in the industry have a call for transparency, at the vendor or user level. Its like SarBox for the network. Otherwise you lose trust. Trust only comes from a level of transparency in the system.
The industry has reached a point where the society is so reliant on its products, that perhaps the industry needs to take its responsibility seriously?
Brian Dear: Cover story on Fortune about Tesla. Where is the platform in the auto industry? To let 100 Tesla's
Dell: The roads are already there.
Will this change the kind of leadership in businesses? More political philosophers?
Dell: This is the information age and what we need are people that are good at connecting. You
Hamel: if you look on the web you find heirarchies, but they are natural, meritocritous. Same thing will happen in organizations. The single reason companies get in trouble is management's mental models depreciate faster than their power. The architecht of the internal collaboration platfom will rise.
Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, on How does an established company transform how it innovates?
Now the most profound change management challenge, to where end users create the value themselves and see others to do so together. It is challenging all of our beliefs: management, customer experience. And as a new CEO where I walk in thinking we are a good baseball team and found myself on a football field. How do we harness this and create value. Like Dell said about putting on big ears. We ask ourselves three questions:
- Are we paying our employees to do work that our customers would volunteer to do and can do it better than us? Turbotax Live Community, 40% of the customer questions answered by customers, with better answers and it cost us next to nothing
- Are we sitting on a gold mine of data? Who people want to talk turns out to be other small business owners. We have to figure out to connect those people and now we are 50% SaaS and if we can get people to liberate QuickBooks databases it benefits everyone.
- Will our 25 years of success be an accelerant or an inhibiter? The answer, we are discobvering is with our youth. Generation Y is telling us what to do differently.
Innovation is a moving target and it doesn't come with instructions. We are learning from you, used to be called plagarism, now we call it benchmarking.