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Don't Fail Like IBM

The transformation caused by artificial intelligence is one of the biggest wealth-creation opportunities and one of the most disruptive forces in history. My recently published book, The Intelligence Tsunami, describes where the AI transformation came from, what it is, and universal leadership principles to thrive. IBM’s recent decisions clearly illustrate the book’s subtitle, Get Off the Beach, Ride the Wave, or Get Swept Away.


After laying off 8,000 employees earlier in the year, in December, IBM’s CEO Arvind Krishna said the company was “massively upskilling all of our employees on AI.” The company reintroduced the Watson brand to monetize its AI products for businesses, launching the WatsonX development studio for companies to “train, tune, and deploy” machine learning models. Despite this promise, this week, Jonathan Adashek, IBM’s chief communications officer, had a seven-minute meeting with marketing and communications professionals to let them know the size of their division was being slashed. 

IBM whiffed on the wealth-creating opportunity and succumbed to the disruption. There is a better way. Great leaders apply universal principles to create new value in times of change:

  • Identify the essential mission, 

  • Attract and retain talented, creative individuals committed to the mission,

  • Empower the team with the resources needed to succeed, 

  • Ensure they are accountable for clear, measurable milestones, and

  • Let go so talented, creative individuals can thrive and innovate.

With $13.5 billion in cash and marketable securities, IBM doesn’t lack for resources. Instead of prioritizing short-term cuts, IBM should challenge teams of marketing and communications professionals us AI to create new value for the company.

  • Marketing and communications professionals have distinctive intuition about unmet customer pains, which is invaluable for crafting AI solutions that address real-world needs.

  • AI is a goldmine for innovation for professionals working in the WatsonX studio to create new solutions, personalize customer experiences, or craft data-driven communication strategies.

  • IBM's marketing team, armed with AI, can craft a compelling narrative for how the WatsonX studio allows customers and partners to create new value themselves.

IBM faces intense competition in the enterprise AI market from giants like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. With its rich history and resources, IBM can be out front, too. However, recent actions diminish the company's internal capabilities and send disheartening messages to its employees and customers. 

IBM can and should do better. Don’t be like IBM.

Schedule a time to talk about inspiring your team to thrive by applying these universal principles. 

The best way to predict your future is to create it.




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