By Alan Murray and Geoffrey Smith
October 26, 2017

Good morning.

I spent yesterday with a group of 100 CEOs gathered by IBM’s Ginni Rometty to discuss the “big bets” on the future being made by their companies. The session, which included top executives of companies in 17 different industries and representing $2 trillion in revenues and 5 million employees, was off the record, so I can’t discuss specifics. But I can provide a few takeaways.

Rometty opened the session by suggesting the next wave of technology, unlike the last, is going to provide an advantage to legacy companies over digital startups. “I believe this is a ‘now’ moment for the incumbent companies,“ she said. “You can go on the offense. You can be the disruptor, instead of the disrupted.” Many of the participating companies seemed to share her optimism, and a few provided stories of how they were doing just that.

The basis for their optimism? Rometty posited that the first phase of the digital revolution favored a small number of platform giants that benefited from the network effect. The next phase is not about the network alone, but also about knowledge. That, she said, will depend on the proprietary data, as well as the expertise, in the hands of companies like those in the room. Those who use it wisely, with the help of AI, will win.

IBM’s Jon Iwata interviewed the 100 about their big bets prior to the event, and gave the group a summary of some shared insights:

  • The group believes their companies’ core expertise is more important and more relevant than ever. Technology empowers that expertise.
  • Data has become their most powerful asset (although turning that data into intelligence is still a critical challenge).
  • Almost all of them are either building, or participating in, platforms, which are vital to their future.

Finally, the CEOs echoed a point I’ve heard repeatedly in the last few years: the biggest problem they face is not technology, but rather creating a culture that can embrace and adapt to technological change. As Iwata summarized their view: “Culture is the number one impediment… Culture moves in a linear way; technology moves exponentially.”

More news below.

Alan Murray


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