Home > Risk > IBM’s Global CEO Study has Interesting Observations

IBM’s Global CEO Study has Interesting Observations

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

IBM’s 2012 survey of 1,709 CEOs had some things to say that didn’t surprise me – and some that did.

First, the interesting observations that reinforced my existing perceptions:

  • Leaders are recognizing that our new connected era is fundamentally changing how people engage. This shift is one reason why, for the first time since this CEO Study series began in 2004, technology now tops the list of external forces impacting organizations. Above any other external factor — even the economy — CEOs expect technology to drive the most change in their organizations over the next three to five years.
  • While CEOs are invigorated by the opportunities, they also fear falling behind, given the pace of technology change. “The biggest risk we face is technological,” explained one CEO of a French industrial products firm. “If we fail to anticipate a huge technology step, we might go out of business.”
  • In our connected economy, data is a critical new “natural” resource. And knowing how to effectively access, analyze and use it is crucial to understanding and engaging individual customers.

But an emphasis by CEOs on empowering employees, enabling collaboration and innovation, surprised me in my cynical old age.

  • Technology’s impact is obviously broad-based; it is difficult to imagine any aspect of an organization not touched in some way. However, as we looked across the whole of CEOs’ responses, one consistent theme emerged: an overwhelming focus on changes in how people engage with the organization and with each other. The view that technology is primarily a driver of efficiency is outdated; CEOs now see technology as an enabler of collaboration and relationships — those essential connections that fuel creativity and innovation.
  • Technology is creating entirely new ways of connecting innovators inside and outside organizations, altering organizational composition, structure and span of control.
  • It’s allowing organizations to understand and engage customers, consumers, clients and citizens on a more personal level, precisely when, where and how they want. It’s providing novel ways of inspiring employees’ individual and collective creativity, and revolutionizing how teams collaborate, make decisions and get work done. Simply put, technology is reinventing connections with — and among — employees, customers and partners.

Now while I agree that the technology enables virtual collaboration and communication across the globe like never before, I am surprised that CEOs have this so high on their list.

After all, how many in leadership positions actively engage with their employees? When they hold meetings with employees, my experience is that they talk for an hour and then have 15 minutes for questions. The time they spend listening is very limited.

So, while I am encouraged to see a focus on collaboration, let’s see if we can persuade CEOs and other executives to harness the intellectual power of the organization by actively and honestly listening. The tools for that are better than ever before!

Or is collaboration only for those in junior positions?

I welcome your views.

  1. November 30, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Great post, thanks. Good to see this evolution, technology has been driving change and creating opportunities for business and it will continue to do so. I think possibly the economic downturn has allowed for this shift in focus – the fact companies have cash and need to find ways to invest for future business positioning and efficiency plays right into the macro economic circumstances.
    I am seeing, in my practice, progressive companies do this by using continuous analytics and monitoring as a step in the process to use ‘big data’ in new ways to drive the business, and to protect the business with automated GRC functions like the new approaches to FCPA monitoring, as an example.

  2. Urvil Khakhar
    November 30, 2012 at 10:19 PM

    Your view has reinforced my view towards leadership that a leader has to be a good listener and a good guide to his subordinates. Thanks for sharing the above opinion.

  3. December 3, 2012 at 5:28 AM

    Its an interesting observation Norman. Perhaps a CEO feels isolated due to the rarefied air they breathe at such astronomical heights born by remuneration schemes divorced from performance and a technological bubble that shields CEO’s from human contact. Listening is an oral to aural skill requiring use of ears, presence of self, strong dose of humility and demolishing prejudicial barriers that inhibit hearing what another human being is conveying. CEO’s aren’t the only class of human beings that are short on this skill set.

    I do like the comment that “In our industry, the biggest risk we face is not regulatory mandates, as many think. It’s industry disruption…” So many CEO’s have such an anti-regulatory bias (or any bias for that matter) that they fail to hear the clanging bells of fiscal cliffs and other pitfalls; by failing to understand how informed regulatory initiatives are frameworks for sound business practices…

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