E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

A Smart Planet – Why Think?

Incredibly busy day today. One where I wish I could clone myself to be in multiple places attending some of the really cool events happening all over. Alas, not going to happen, so I better get going with something really really cool that has just launched earlier on today. It is coming from IBM (Usual disclaimer kicking in, by the way, before anyone wonders about it hehe). It is HUGE! It is incredibly EXCITING! It is MASSIVE! … But, it is also missing something … Something that if you have been reading this blog for a while you would be able to sense a bit what it is. But let’s see. One step at a time…

If you head over to Secure. Innovative. Careful. Agile. Ready you would be able to read further on a new initiative that Sam Palmisano, IBM‘s CEO, has just launched and which promises to help change the world as we know it. Read that rather interesting article to see what the fuss is all about. Then I would point you to this reproduction of the speech that Sam did earlier on today as well at the Council of Foreign Relations under the title "A Smarter Planet: The Next Leadership Agenda" or watch the video online here.

Yes, indeed, welcome to A Smarter Planet! This is a new initiative launched today by Sam himself where he clearly highlighted a good number of challenges that we face today as a society and how we may need to start smartening up quite a bit in order to look for the next generations of business models which will have a much more significant impact not just within the business world itself, but also within our own society as we know it. Like the main article states:

– How ineffective our power grids are: 67% of energy is lost due to inefficiencies.
– How sick our healthcare system is: costs have pushed nearly 100 million people below the poverty line.
– How dirty our water is: one in five people do not have access to drinkable water.
– How wasteful our food chains are: U.S. consumers throw away $48 billion worth of food a year.

And then read further on about "The good news":

"Through the power of technology, there is a lot we can actually change now. For the first time in history, the most powerful computers on earth can be affordably accessed by almost any business or organization and applied to any model to analyze just about any workload. Almost any object can become digitally aware and interconnected—or "smart." And every single one of these interactions represents a chance to do something better, more productively."

So you can imagine where most of my excitement comes from, right? Just on the perfect spot, perfect timing, perfect situation, perfect background overall … for change! And it looks like I haven’t been the only one thinking along those lines. Already a bunch of good friends, and fellow colleagues, have been blogging about what this initiative would mean for us all, as knowledge workers, readying for that change. Andy Piper, Jack Mason, Aaron Kim, Kevin Aires, Bill Chamberlin, Larry Phipps (Over at The Greater IBM Connection) have already been sharing their thoughts on it, as well as a whole bunch of other folks, and it is starting to pick up momentum as well in microsharing sites like Twitter or Friendfeed.

There is even a Tumblr space, A Smarter Planet, which is already starting to capture some further thoughts and insights, as well as a good number of YouTube videos that describe what it would all be about over the next few months (Perhaps years): What are you working on? What is progress? A history of progress. And I know that a blog will be coming up shortly, too!

Yes, indeed, you can say that it is picking up plenty of buzz and I am sure it will be generating a whole bunch of conversations that, up until now, we were not having. And this is exactly what brings me into my point, which I think by now you would be able to relate to quite a bit. And if not, let’s look and see …

Don’t you think that something is missing? Something in "A Smart Planet" that would make it succeed big time? Don’t you have that feeling there is something else out there that could make it work with an even bigger and larger impact reaching out every single aspect of who we are as a society? Hummm, that’s just how I felt when I was first getting exposed to the whole initiative.

And if you have been reading this blog for a while now, like I mentioned earlier on, you will know exactly what’s missing from this particular initiative. Yes, that’s right, the people!!! Or what James Governor put nicely together in a recent tweet:

"@sandy_carter did you end up citing @timoreilly and @cshirky, harnessing collective intelligence and better information filters respectively" (Emphasis mine)

That’s what I am missing, indeed. The people! (Once again!) The glue that will make it all work. That collaborative nature in each and everyone of us that will be putting everything to the test to prove how innovative and prone towards knowledge sharing we, knowledge workers, really are. The ultimate challenge for us all: provoking the change. Ourselves!

Don’t take me wrong, folks, Technology is a wonderful thing, we all know that, but we all know that it is just that: Technology. Nothing else. It will be our ability, insights and creativity of making it work to suit our needs that will help us get through these rough times. We can have the best technology in the world, as well as the best processes, but if we don’t have the people, i.e. the right people, then we haven’t got anything!

And how are we going to make it work? -you may be wondering, right? Well, how else? Through connecting, collaborating and sharing our knowledge across with our peers. And all of that by adding into the mix, to augment those already existing interactions, social software tools. As simple as that! Indeed, that’s the big change we will all need to go through! Sooner or later, but we will have to go through it, whether we like it or not. I don’t think there is a way back at this point. Only onwards!

Penny Edwards shared, earlier on, one of the most thought-provoking, accurate and relevant blog posts that I can remember on the topic of Collaboration and she pretty much nails it with her conclusion on where I stand with A Smart Planet. It is not about the tools, nor the technology, but the people! Always has been!:

"[…]providing workers with more flexibility in how they communicate with each other, and customers, can result in new forms of cooperative action, more fruitful collaboration, faster decision-making, and greater productivity. And whilst it’s a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ companies introduce social tools, having a clear view of the driver for their introduction (i.e. tending towards efficiency or value-added / innovation) will ensure the appropriate technologies are implemented and organisational behaviours nurtured."

We already have got that driver for their introduction; now, let’s not forget where the focus should be all along and … Let’s do it!

And to finish off this blog post, I would want to share with you folks one of the multiple YouTube videos that have been shared related to this new initiative and which very clearly describes all what I have just said above, but in a little bit over one minute: Technology can’t / won’t think! Yet we do that all the time! Every minute! Every day!

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  1. Luis,

    thanks for your comments. It’s a great reminder to not lose sight of the people aspect, and the role collaboration will play in this. The issue of people collaboration is definitely part of it. I just watched the video of Sam Palmisano’s speech. Keep in mind the audience is a group of very senior executives from business and government, so it’s more geared for the leadership angle, but here’s an excerpt I thought you’d like:

    “We need to practice a new form of leadership. Think about these systems, no one owns the systems. Which is part of the complexity of driving the change to make them more effective. So, to make this happen, you need collaboration. Everyone has to come out of their lanes, it’s true for business and for politicians and academic organizations. People have to come together and form these partnerships of collaboration to work together to solve these problems. And yes, they are going to have to move out of their comfort zones.”

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