I just finished the 5th conversation in a month with clients asking me to do a technical overview of IBM’s Smarter Planet. It is a marketing campaign that basically says we can use technology to inject more “smartness” into everything we do from infrastructure to work to become more effective. The interesting thing about this is that every one of these conversations with the clients was focused on the pieces of technology that could enable a smarter planet and none of them was focused on how people will make the ultimate difference.
There is a growing impact our use of technology is having on the world. We often see this as a “green” issue (too much global warming) or a “lifestyle” issue (never stop working, even on the train), or even a “child-rearing” issue (too many video games). Our response has often been to ask – “what technology can we use to get us out of the trouble technology helped us get into?” But technology is neither a silver bullet nor an ultimate evil. What we seem to miss more than get is that we have to change behavior.
With Earth Day hovering about, it seemed like the time was right for people to become smarter about the way they work – which is part of IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign. But still, as in oh so many interactions, the focus of these inquiries from clients kept returning to technology implementations with little or no interest in how work is done. We all know that changing ourselves is the hardest thing to do. And, unfortunately, lack of change in ourselves often thwarts any true change we want to make in our approaches. What IBM wants to do with Smarter Planet is to begin a dialog about how technology ultimately must be put to work in different ways, not just how technology should keep changing and growing. Not a new idea, but a worthy one to pursue. I just wish more people would call saying “I get it!”
So, with the not unexpected revelation that IT people often care more for the pieces they can buy than the outcomes they enable, I began to wonder how smart IBM would be about its Smarter Planet campaign in the long run. Will they increase focus on “smarter work” as a percentage of the overall smarter planet campaign? It is, in my mind, the most important piece. Will they begin to de-emphasize how their technology works in favor of emphasizing how it can be embedded in solutions that just work? IBM has a lot of technologies and one can get lost in the weeds. Will they really begin to generate a movement by people instead of IT groups to create a sister to “Earth day” – call it “Smart Day?”
All of these would be things that elevate what people do with Smarter Planet instead of leaving them to stare at the technologies while scratching their heads and mumbling – “huh?”
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