Monthly Archives: May 2011

Follow-on Thoughts – Our Creativity Dialogue and Liberal Arts Education

I’ve received lots of comments – mostly all in agreement – on my last post about creativity and skills….. and someone also pointed out this article on CNN that makes a similar argument.  It’s an Op-Ed piece by Michael S. Roth – who is a professor  at Wesleyan University.   Some of what he points out includes –

“A well-rounded education gave graduates more tools with which to solve problems, broader perspectives through which to see opportunities and a deeper capacity to build a more humane society.”

You might want to check it out….


Creativity?- Who Should You Hire?

As I work around the world with colleges and universities on how they can change their curriculum to both be more engaging to students and better develop them to be successful in the next decade – I’m frequently asked by students and parents what majors should be selected to give the best job opportunities.

Usually my answer goes like this “You should study what you are most interested in and along the way ensure you try to minor or get experience in some area that will be a good means to find a job. ”

At IBM we’ve been talking for two years now about the need to develop “T-shaped” students – students who are deep in an area of expertise, but also have broad skills in a range of areas.  A good example would be someone deep in engineering who has also taken some computer science and business courses, or someone deep in energy science who has some experience in public policy and IT networking.   Why?  Because the most challenging problems we face in building a Smarter Planet require solutions that are focused at the intersection of these fields –

  • SmartGrid deployments require the intersection of energy skills, IT skills, public policy around pricing and privacy, etc.
  • Smarter Healthcare requires a mix of analytics, business management, healthcare policy, and deep usage of technology to integrate medical records across systems and providers.
  • Smarter Cities projects bring together leaders in transportation, civic affairs, healthcare, safety and security, energy and even smarter water and waste management.  Each of these areas require experts to deploy new ways of integrating these systems to improve the quality of life in places like Rio, Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Shanghai and even New York City.

IBM has been looking across many of our Smarter Planet projects all around the globe, and one of the distinguishing factors that sets the most successful projects apart from others is the degree of creative leadership that is in place on the project.  That’s right – creative leadership might be the trump factor.

Why?   I think it’ s because these projects require a strong vision of “what’s truly possible” in the face of so many obstacles.  Getting a network of city agencies, along with public and private leaders and stakeholders, to work together without being limited by the long list of obstacles and constraints takes strong creative leadership.

And how best to find this type of creative leadership?  New research that was published by Tony Golsby-Smith in Harvard Business Review says that companies and institutions should hire students from the Humanities.

As a graduate of Saint Anselm College – a liberal arts school known for it’s great work in the Humanities – I couldn’t agree more!

Be sure to check out the article – it outlines four of the key reasons that humanities graduates are great at solving very complex problems.

Tips for Global Entrepreneur SmartCamp Mentors

At our first Global Entrepreneur Smartcamp event of 2011 last week in Bangalore – I was asked to share my observations and advice on how the mentors for the startups can be most effective and helpful as they coach the companies throughout the event.   So I shared my five key tips for mentors –

1) Rely on your expertise and experience – each of you as mentors were selected based on your expertise and experience, so leverage that as the key areas that you coach the entrepreneurs on – and stick to those areas you know best.

2) Ask good questions – rather than telling them what to do or making statements.  Too often mentors want to tell an entrepreneur how to position their solution, or how to adjust their business model.  Instead by asking effective questions mentors can get the entrepreneur to think in new ways, to explore new options that might lead to a richer set of ideas than just the one idea or approach that might be thought of by the mentor.    This is the essence of good “coaching” and socratic teaching at it’s finest.

3) Help entrepreneurs see connections across the  elements of their business model.   As senior business leaders and mentors, you are all experienced in seeing connections across various business models – e.g. understanding how certain pricing models will impact route to market and sales models, which might impact a customer acquisition vs.  retention strategy and have impact on marketing and solution delivery.  But often times entrepreneurs are not as experienced at seeing the inter-relationships of these business model elements and don’t see the interdependencies – or they assume items are inter-dependent when they don’t have to be.   As mentors helping them see these connections is a critical area  we can add real value.

4) Help them learn to anticipate.   Given our collective experience in working with startups – we all know that the ability to anticipate changes in the marketplace and being able to evolve the initial idea is the key to success.  Ask good questions about how the solution might evolve based on client feedback, how the business might be able to pivot based on either existing or new entrant competitor moves, or based on changes in technology or value capture strategies.   Anticipating well is a key to survival.

5) Help them refine their value proposition and communications.  The single area we most often see significant same-day improvement in during a Smartcamp is helping the startup improve the clarity of their customer value proposition.  Often times the most impactful area we can help them is in clarifying the customer problem they are actually trying to solve, and crisping up their statement of value and 30-second elevator pitch to prospective clients.    By helping them refine the positioning of the solution and the messaging of their unique value and selling proposition, we can really strengthen the startup’s chance of getting those first key clients.

I hope you find these tips helpful as we all work to coach and mentor these exciting startup companies!

Bangalore Smartcamp A Big Success

Last week I had the pleasure of spending the week in Bangalore and hosted our first IBM Global Entrepreneur Smartcamp of 2011.   The event was a tremendous success with over 200+ startups applying to attend the event to benefit from the intense mentoring and business plan competition.   Prior to the actual day of the event – five companies were selected to attend and be mentored by our a great team of 26 experts from our venture capital, academic, ISV and other key ecosystem partners.  The five companies chosen to attend were:

  • Adiro Systems Private Ltd — builds sensor-based enterprise mobility solutions including automatic identification and data collection for manufacturing industry.
  • ConnectM – creates machine to machine technology for domain specific analytics and business intelligence for Telecom, Utilities, and Transportation industries
  • Indrion Technologies India Pvt Ltd – an intelligent automation provider based on embedded sensor and actuator network technology.
  • Infobotique Services (P) Limited – creates solutions for compliance and risk management for Oil and Natural Gas industry.
  • Quantama Mobile Solutions Pvt. Ltd – allows you to find places of interest, promotions and events nearby.

The five finalists presented their plans and after much discussion and dialogue with the mentors and judges, ConnectM was chosen as the winner for its Smarter Energy Concept.

ConnectM will now compete in the SmartCamp World Finals with winners of SmartCamps from other countries, for the honor of IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year 2011!

I’d like to especially thank our distinguished group of judges and mentors who spent the full day with our five finalists.  We appreciate your willingness to be a part of the event and help mentor these five companies as they strive to create solutions to build a Smarter Planet!

·	Darren Bibby, Vice President, IDC
·	Venkat Raju, Country Head & MD, ACI WorldWide
·	Ravindranath.P, Executive Director, TiE
·	Shalini Pillay, Partner, Performance & Technology, KPMG
·	Dr. Ponani Gopalakrishnan, VP, India Software Labs, IBM
·	Madhusudan Atre, President, Applied Materials India P Ltd
·	Samir Kumar, Managing Director, Inventus Advisory Services
·	Laura Parkin, CEO & Co-founder, NEN
·	Prof. Sekhar Babu, Chairperson, Amirta Institute of Management
·	Jeby Cherian, Director, Strategy, IBM India South Asia
·	Prof. Sadagopan, Director, IIIT Bangalore
·	Uma Reddy, CEO, HiTech Magnetics
·	Rahul Chowdhri , VP, Helion Advisors P Ltd
·	Ashish Sinha, Founder Pluggedin
·	Capt. V.Sivakumar, Associate Director - IT, Metlife India
·	Vish Narayan, IBM Distinguished Engineer & CTO, IBM Industry Solutions
·	Ajay Hattangdi, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Bank India Finance
·	Ramasubramaian, CMD, BioPure
·	Priya Chetty Rajagopal, VP & Client Partner, Stanton Chase International
·	RamPrasad Moudgalya, Telecom/Wireless Intrapreneur
·	Ankur Gulati, Analyst, DFJ
·	Mauricio Sucasas, Director, IBM ISV & DR, Growth Market Units
·	Mohan Kumar, Executive Director, Norwest Venture Partners
·	Girish Venkatachaliah, Director, Information Management and BA, IBM
·	V. Ravichandar, Chairman, Feedback Consulting
·	Vidhya Shrivatsava, Head- South, India Angel Network

Sudhir Sethi, Founder, Chairman & Managing Director, IDG Ventures, along with Ajay Hattangdi, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Bank India Finance and I were on the panel of judges for the IBM SmartCamp Contest held in Bangalore on 27th of April 2011.

That's me on the left with Murali Ramalingam, MD, ConnectM, Praveen Chandrashekhar, VP IBM Indi, Sriram Chidambaram, Head – Sales, ConnectM and Mauricio Sucasas, Director, IBM ISV & DR, Growth Market Units