TED at IBM Recap: 3 Women Sparking Big Ideas and Activation

ted-at-ibm-2016

I had the esteemed privilege of attending TED at IBM last month in San Francisco. Admitedly, I was prepared to be impressed by their usual roster of inspiring speakers making strides in every field from technology to healthcare. However, there was something more at play at this year’s TED at IBM. I got the sense that IBM, the company wanted each of us to walk away with something more than what we had in previous years. My takeaway was the following: Although things in the world aren’t right at the moment, don’t fret as there are people working to solve the ills of society and more importantly we all have a duty to contribute in the same fashion. While IBM made no specific reference to politics or endorsements of any one candidate, their request that we all refrained from capturing pictures and posting to social media; in addition to the messages each of their speakers brought to bear sent a clear message as to which side of humanity they are on.

If nothing else, 2016 should have taught each of us that the huge global challenges we face are both diverse and emergent. Take speaker,  Dr. Laxmi Parida for instance. Her talk at this year’s TED at IBM was about her work as a Computational Geneticist where she is analyzing the genes of crops to ensure our food is safer and sustainable. She shared with us that most of the calories we consume today come from just 12 plants. Dr. Parida went on to share that biodiversity in the tropics has dropped 60% and that the likes of favorite fruits like Avocado are under threat. Most notably, she warned: ” We are a global village. As scourge affects one part of the world it quickly spreads to the others.”

We take for granted everyday that we have certain necessities like food, water, housing etc. What if none of those things exist one day or exist in crippling shortages? Some of our fellow citizens of the world know this reality all to well. While we empathize with their plight we don’t often take a moment to consider whether we will be met with the same shortfall in our own lives.

As luck would have it, I ended up on the same plane and seated next to Dr. Laxmi Parida going back home to NY. You would never know she just delivered the talk of her life sitting next to her. She was humble and friendly as we chatted and shared a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. My kind of gal.

Next up is a particularly moving speaker by the name of Villy Wang. When we talk about empathy and putting ourselves in the place of another- no name stands out more than Villy Wang. Upon listening to her opening remarks for her talk at TED at IBM we all heard about her childhood which appeared to be marred by her fear and hatred of African-American people. You see, Villy was raised by a immigrant single mother in NYC who was one day unexpectedly mugged by some black teens. As we all cringed listening to this story, a bright spot immediately emerges as she explains how her own disdain of stereotypes against Asian people caused her to want to understand other minorities (particularly, African-American people) and the biases they faced. The more she examined other minorities the more she came to see the economic and social disparity faced by minorities. As a result, she started BAYCAT – a social enterprise designed to teach youth for low-income and underserved communities to capture untold stories to create social change. She brought one of her students with her to TED at IBM who she asked to stand for applause. There was not a dry eye in the theater.

Having compassion for one another begins with the genuine interest in not only listening to what others have to say; but understanding and acknowledging their reality. Villy lives this and it came through in her talk.

Some more inspiration…

What does the development of chemotherapy drugs have to do with curing the ills of governments? Apparently, the two are very connected if you ask Charity Wayua. Dr. Wayua is from rural Kenya. After earning her PhD in developing chemotherapy drugs from Purdue University she returned to Kenya to use what she new to cure the ills of the Kenyan government. Her goal was no simple task. She wanted to improve government services designated for small and medium businesses.

As result of Dr. Wayua’s use of cutting-edge technology and the utilization of methodologies used to cure cancer to cure inefficiencies in the Kenyan government, she was able to shift Kenya’s rank on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Data Bank from ranking 113 to 92. She noted that initially she believed the Kenyan government was corrupt. However, she has revised her thinking since working with them realizing that they were not corrupt in the way she first believed. Her belief is we all have a duty to roll-up our sleeves to create the change we want to see in our governments.

As we face our own dealings with corruption here in the U.S., this is a great reminder that we all have what it takes to be the change we wish to see in our government.

I could write so much more about the power of the speakers at TED at IBM, but it would never end.

What I took with me is this feeling of hope and obligation to refocus on that which is bigger and more pressing than my immediate needs. The world needs each of us to do our part whether in our own communities or at scale to cure the ills of society while making life better for others. It is time for us to use the spark within us to activate things that add value to humanity rather than detract from it.

This is a call to action I can get behind. What ideas will you “spark and activate” in 2017?

Competitive Partnerships Powering the Future of Business

Competitive Partnerships

I was at IBM Insight last week and as per usual it was an awarding experience. There is a shift going on in business and technology that I find both interesting and exciting. It is a shift that is about partnership over competition. Big name technology companies are partnering with new school app developers and tech startups to provide consumers with better products, experiences and customer service.

Courtesy of IBM.

Image courtesy of IBM.

 

You may be thinking: “How will this all be done?” The surge of cognitive technology is leading the way in allowing for better insights that allow for a better understanding of people. Cognitive technology allows us to get to the root of people’s behaviors, motivations, needs, and wants. The compilation of this information around these things allows companies to provide a personalized experience and resolution to some of the most pressing human issues.

For instance, we all know the dreaded unexpected breakdown of appliances. They are costly and unwelcomed. Whirlpool is focused on the connecting everything that is important to us through mobile-optimized appliances. This means that you could receive notification telling us that a part in our machines is going and have that information sent back to Whirlpool for troubleshooting.

Image courtesy of IBM.

Image courtesy of IBM.

Box is working with IBM’s Watson Analytics to synthesize the information you house in Box to provide real-time analytics for end users. I know it frustrates me to have unstructured information and data that is either hidden or lost in the systems I use. To be able, to have insights derived from the files you save with Box is a tremendous capability for individuals and business owners.

Courtesy of IBM.

Courtesy of IBM.

The Internet of Weather

How about all of these catastrophic weather events we’re experiencing? The Weather Company is  on the heels of being acquired by IBM for their Internet of Things division.  At the conference, they described an app that could be used during hurricanes not only for timely push notifications based on minute-to-minute news surrounding a weather event; but also the app has the ability to function as a flashlight and alarm to alert authorities to people who may be stranded during a catastrophic weather event.

Partnership > Competition

It is interesting to see the market moving in a direction where being competitive means partnering with a competitor to disrupt the market and provide a better product overall. Companies that you wouldn’t dream of seeing on the same billboard let alone working together realize that innovation in a vacuum is no innovation at all. The reality is: Customers want more. Whether it is quality of customer experience or a better product- very few companies are able to upkeep the supply of new, exciting and efficient products. In return, they are collaborating with other businesses or competitors to leverage their respective market strengths and technology to create new or increased value.

Why Should HR Practitioners Care?

With all these new ways of collaborating and doing business, HR needs to be looking at new and creative ways to deploy individuals and teams to get the work done. Additionally, it is a wake up call to all of us to remain aware of the changing business climate. We need to be aware of shifts in business and be prepared to pivot how we serve in our organizations. You can’t be a part of the conversation, if you don’t know what’s going on. It is equivalent to the moments in which a person comes in on the tail end of a conversation and arrives at an incorrect conclusion because they were otherwise occupied or absent from the majority of the conversation. We have a duty to become knowledgeable not only in the practice of Human Resources, but in business, market shifts, changes in customer behaviors and sentiments. It is near impossible to be a true partner to the C-Suite when you don’t know enough to craft a solution.

How do you see these competitive partnerships impacting what we do in HR?

Want more? Click here to watch the latest “Ask Czarina” episode. Subscribe to “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel to be notified when new episodes are published.

TED@IBM Outlook: I Create,Therefore I am.

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. IBM has hired me as a brand ambassador for this campaign because of my participation in the IBM New Way to Work Futurist Influencer Program. I am not formally employed by IBM. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Image courtesy of IBM.

Image courtesy of IBM.

As a philosophy enthusiast, I have always loved Rene Descartes’s take on the existence of things which is: “I think, therefore I am.” He believed the only way we could be certain that we exist is when we are thinking. Given the nature of the rapid advancements of our time, I believe he would be certain that we exist just by the sheer numbers of inventions that have cropped up over the last decade.

What if we switched up his quote a bit to say: “I create, therefore I am.” In the context of 2015, wouldn’t it be fair to say that people who create products, businesses, art, music, and even content have infinite existence and visibility by virtue of what they create. Whether or not the things they create are successful doesn’t much matter. The very act of creating something is an extension of their existence as a human being. In many cases- what they create has a lasting effect and impact long after the creator is gone.

These lasting effects are footprints that ensure that future generations have blueprints (some unfinished) that peak curiosity and fuel invention and innovation for a long time to come. This is how it has been and so it will continue in the future.

When we look back at this time in history, it will mark rapid advances in technology and innovation. It is a time ripe with opportunity for anyone to create something new and/or improve something that could be better. In retrospect, we may question anyone who failed to create anything useful during this period. Yes, you have to have an idea, plus a plan and the audacity to believe in your ability to have an impact- but how can you not be inspired to create something with so much innovation and necessity at play?

To be a creator doesn’t mean you need to be building multi-million dollar companies. It can be as simple as creating something that solves a problem for one person.  For that matter, you may even create something that improves your own quality life. It would be self-serving, but at least you created something. Let’s take a broader look at the art of creation and this period of time in our history. There are still unperfected technologies, deficits of basic resources like clean water and adequate food in many countries around the globe; as well as  socio-economic catastrophes that seem never-ending.

If you can sit back and watch all of these human and technological conundrums continue into the next century without recognizing what your part in it is- that is disappointing. The only way we continue to exist is by creating things that are needed and keeping the innovation going. I am often asked what the most important aspect of the future is. My answer is always: “the people” or “humans”. We have the ability to change it all.

This is why I am so honored and excited to be attending the upcoming TED@IBM conference in San Francisco on October 15th. I am in a state of constant creation, but I am always eager to be fed new perspectives, ideas and inspiration that in turn inform everything from how I live my life to how I run my business. This year’s theme is “Necessity and Invention”. Each of the speakers touches on some aspect of the human experience by discussing a “need” or “an invention” that will impact us all.

To see the agenda, lineup of impressive speakers and register for this event, visit IBM.com/TED  for more information. In addition, I will be live tweeting from this event and expect there to be lots of live content being streamed during the event. To keep up with the latest and greatest during the conference, follow the #TEDatIBM hashtag.

“Ask Czarina” The #SHRM15 Edition

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Hey HR Aristocrats! On Sunday, I will be travelling to Las Vegas as a member of the 2015 SHRM National Blogger Team. It is my first time visiting Vegas and I am beyond excited. There will be a lot going on in my corner. I want to get you caught up, so you know where you can find me and what to expect.

The first thing you should know is: I will be one of the panelists on the Building a #SmarterWorkforce Twitter Chat sponsored by IBM on Monday, 6/29 from 11am-12pm PST/2pm-3pm EST. The topic is: The Future of Work. Brian Moran of Brian Moran & Associates will be hosting it and I will be sharing insights along with my co-panelist, Mike Haberman of OmegaHR Solutions. Mark your calendar and join us!

Image courtesy of Purematter.

Image courtesy of Purematter.

The second thing you should know is:

I will be dusting off the #czarinatravels hashtag. Follow the hashtag to see food, random musings and sights as I make my way to Vegas. In addition, I have taken the plunge and I am now on Periscope. Follow me @CzarinaofHR to view my pop-up live streams. It is unlikely that the bloggers will be cleared to stream sessions (although we have asked). I will keep you posted if this changes.

Check out my latest vlog below from The Aristocracy of HR You Tube Channel for more #SHRM15 nuggets. If you plan on being in Vegas, let’s connect. If you are a part of the #notatshrm15 crew don’t fret- I will make sure you feel like you are there.

See you in Vegas!

Millennials: Making The World a Better Place One Startup at a Time

Campaign/FTC disclosure: I will receive paid sponsorship for promoting this campaign. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. This opportunity was made possible because of my participation in IBM’s #NewWayToWork Futurist Program.  I am not formally employed by IBM. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Image courtesy of IBM.com

There isn’t a week or month that passes where you don’t have the bad fortune of coming across a doom and gloom article about Millennials. If experts aren’t warning us of the demise of the workforce as we know it – they are busy labeling an entire generation of people as being needy, lacking work ethic, technologically savvy and many other half-truths that seem to be fodder for the usual generational conversation.

With our workforce slated to be infused with a 75% millennial workforce by 2025, it is clear that we either need jump on the millennial bandwagon or move out of their way. This generation has learned well from previous generations. They know what they want and will not settle for anything less. Call it “obnoxious” or “entitled” it doesn’t much matter. The point they drive home is that we all have a purpose- we just need to find it and execute.

If we are to believe any of the stereotypes, the millennial-led startups in IBM’s #NewWayToStartUp competition will certainly provide a different lens for this often misunderstood generation.

What is the #NewWayToStartup Competition?

It’s easy to say we support innovation but what are we actually doing about it? IBM has taken action to foster innovation by creating a startup competition of ten millennial-led companies that are focused on social good. They invited one member from each startup to SXSW in March to pitch their venture to an expert panel. Ten startups pitched their companies whereby five startups were eliminated.

The remaining five teams went on to participate in a week long accelerator that included daily challenges and granted them the a year’s access to IBM’s Watson Analytics and their newest software, IBM Verse.

The progress of the startups is documented in webisodes that have chronicled their participation since the pitch event at SXSW.

The grand-prize winner of the competition receives free entrance into TED@IBM for up to three team members.

If the prize sounds cool- you will be equally impressed with the actual companies and founders.

Putting good things back into the world

If you’re going to go to the trouble of putting in the hard work, blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice that is synonymous with entrepreneurship, why not create something that benefits everyone? This is the kind of innovation and creativity that IBM is trying to foster through the #NewWayToStartup competition. Each of the five companies have founded their companies on the premise of being helpful and putting something good back into the world. After watching all of the webisodes, I was inspired. It left me feeling like the world may have a chance – if we have founders and companies like the ones I’m about to describe.

Being under the pressure of strict deadlines and the lens of some of the greatest minds in business is nerve-wrecking. Anyone who has ever pitched their company or has been a spectator of a pitch competition would know how that feels. Bravery comes to mind when I think about how vulnerable you feel as a founder sharing your idea with the world. At a minimum, they should all be applauded for taking a chance on themselves and their companies.

If you think I’m pulling your leg about the greatness of these startups, here is a short description of what each company does. I dare you to not feel inspired by what these millennials missions.

The Lassy Project– gives parents the ability to notify an entire local community about a missing child in seconds. They use a combination of community, data, and technology to create a new global standard for personal and public safety.

Owlet Baby Care- is a wearable infant monitor that can alert parents if their child’s heart rate or oxygen levels are in a dangerous range. They are caring parents who want to usher in a future where, just like a car seat, every baby comes home with a wearable health monitor. A future where there are less infant funerals, and more empowered parents.

Sproutel–    makes health and wellness a playful part of everyday life. Their first product, Jerry the Bear, is an interactive learning companion for the 18% of children with chronic illnesses that combines animated content with an electronically enabled stuffed animal.

Stretch Recipes– is an app developed to help everyone eat better and save more by building an amazing app that will help empower people who are stretched for time, energy, resources, and knowledge to enter their budget, choose their meals, and automatically get their shopping list and coupons.

Charity Chargeis a platform to help customers create positive impact each time they make a purchase. Their first tool is a credit card enabling customers to donate 1% cash-back earnings to charities and organizations of their choice.

As a parent, I was immediately moved by ‘The Lassy Project’ ‘Owlet’ and ‘Sproutel’. The worst thing in the world that can happen to a parent- is to have a child go missing. The Lassy Project makes notification simple and quick by notifying networks of loved ones and friends-with the ability to escalate to authorities-if need be.

Two years ago my youngest daughter became ill with a bout of Pneumonia and we nearly lost her. A product like ‘Owlet’ would have been extremely helpful in our initial assessment of her condition. Not to mention that this has the ability to rid us from anymore sudden infant death cases.

With regard to ‘Sproutel’, who doesn’t love a cute teddy bear? It is beyond cool that children with chronic illnesses can have a friend in Jerry The Bear- while also learning  more about their disease.

Both ‘Stretch Recipes’ and ‘Charity Charge’ have great promise, as we are in a time where every penny and minute counts for so many families. They are saving people time and putting customers money to work in beneficial ways.

As I mentioned in the beginning, so much of what you hear about millennials is negative. These millennial-led companies are doing what they love while adding to the greater good. In fact, the team at Owlet has taken lower salaries just to see this venture through. This is the kind of passion and sacrifice that awakens the senses and creates engaged workforces. I will wager, that we can all learn a great deal from these founders.

Whether you work for someone or for yourself, it is a necessary practice to ask yourself – if you are:

1) Being of service to others.

2) Working with a purpose in mind.

3) Passionate about what you do?

In Webisode 3, I love the talk the Mayor of Austin, Texas has with the founders. He mentions to them that what they are doing is not an academic exercise. He emphasizes the importance of failing quickly and creating something great in the world. This kind of advice is completely contrary to the advice fed to previous generations. With several generations in the workforce at once, it is no wonder there are misunderstandings and disconnect among the generations.

How much more productive and cohesive could we be as a workforce if we became comfortable with failure? In this webisode, you come to understand that failure is not a negative, but a necessary stepping-stone towards success.

Who will win?

Social voting is going on and ends today. The winner will be chosen on July 1st at 1-2pm EST. I won’t dare make a prediction. The original 10 were great and certainly the final five are all fantastic.

Call me a nerd, but this is the sort of reality television I could get used to. These founders are tackling some of the most important problems of our time. The reach and magnitude of what they are developing has the ability to change lives and the world. IBM should be applauded for giving these innovators the spotlight to share their gifts and passion with us all. This competition has the ability to not only inspire younger children to start their own businesses, but to inspire older generations to create the business they have been putting on the backburner.

The workforce is beginning to look very different- which may scare some. I prefer to get excited about the future. There is definitely something different about millennials, but it isn’t bad. They see the world differently than most generations. At the core of who they are, they care about others and are dedicated to creating the kind of society that favors everyone. On that sentiment alone, I have a renewed sense that the future for my children is bright because millennials are on a mission to make the world better one startup at a time.

Join me in supporting these impressive men and women, by watching the entire webisode series. You can check out the pitch competition below- along with links to all of the subsequent webisodes.

 

For more information on the #NewWayToWork Futurist Program and the work we are doing, go to: www.ibm.com/futurists.

 

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