Why has the oldest, biggest computer tech company in the world, IBM, stayed alive so long and how can its current CEO Ginny Rometty make sure she isn't the one that kills it?
As the ninth CEO of IBM that's the thing that keeps Rometty up at night, she told attendees of the Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit on Wednesday, in Washington, D.C.
The answer: IBM is willing to change "everything we do" and to invest in the new technologies that will usher in "a new era of computing," she says. But predicting what technologies will be hot in the future, and what will not, isn't easy.
So Rometty has zeroed in on five ways to do it, something she calls, "looking around corners."
She believes a company of any size can emulate these:
1. Do your own research. Smaller companies obviously can't invest like IBM, which has huge R&D facilities and 3,000 PhDs. But she says, that every company should spend some hands-on time with new tech.
2. Work with universities around world. Any company can partner with universities, she says.
3. Ask customers. "I can't tell you how many great ideas, and certainly great ideas about acquisitions, I've gotten from clients," she says.
4. Build a network with the venture capital community. Also remember that there's more than one beyond Silicon Valley. or even the U.S. For instance, the startup scene is hot in Israel, she says.
5. Do "social within enterprise." Give employees ways to brainstorm with each other. Like most tech companies, IBM has "hack days" where technical folks stop their day jobs and build something new. IBM also has company-wide brainstorming days, called Jams, which includes non-tech people.
Good leaders "constantly" tap into all of these sources to see the future, and they do it themselves, she says, rather than getting a report from someone else.
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