Warren Buffett, Customer-Driven Innovation & Growth
Craig Hayman 270006YABP firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  c-suite enterprise socbiz #ibmsocbiz ibmconnect #socbiz warren_buffet
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General Manager, Industry Solutions and Smarter Workforce / Collaboration Solutions IBM Software
Is there any businessman today whom people watch more closely than Warren Buffett?
I was thinking about that on my way to IBM Connect and arrived at the conclusion that Buffett stands alone as both an admired executive (“The Oracle of Omaha!”) and a dispenser of folk wisdom. When he joined Twitter in May of last year with a jaunty, “Warren is in the house,” he earned more than 1,000 followers per minute. Who cares that I can count his tweets on the fingers of one hand! When Warren Buffett talks, people pay attention.
Buffett wrote recently about women and how they very well may hold the key to our ongoing prosperity. His points are well researched, especially when he presents the argument that American prosperity has been fueled by a political and economic system that “unleashes human potential to an extraordinary degree.” But I would take it one step further and add that we can and should use technology to unleash new human potential, thereby driving economic growth and building new markets.
American individualism and our glorification of self-reliance are often cited as two major factors behind our economic power and Buffett’s essay touches on these points. (By the way, I am an Englishman, but consider the U.S. to be my adopted country). But in our digital economy, an individual’s value is established not by how much knowledge he amasses, but by how much knowledge he shares with others. When knowledge sharing is driven deep into an organization’s culture and its operating procedures, it becomes a nearly incomparable competitive advantage. Companies are breaking down silos to make better decisions, gain insights, and act faster than ever before. Furthermore, we’re finding that collaborating openly and transparently with employees and with customers can lead to unexpected breakthroughs in products and services. IBM’s 2013 Global C-suite survey found that 90 percent of C-suite executives plan to collaborate much more extensively with customers in the years ahead, with 50 percent looking to source innovation from outside the organization. These enterprises are customer activated—they not only realize their best ideas might come from outside of the company, they’re willing to act on them.
Enterprises are scrambling right now to invest in social technologies. They’re recognizing that they must adapt to the new ways people communicate and build new means of engaging with employees and customers. They are designing rich virtual working environments to promote knowledge sharing, rapid learning, and the building of expertise. Effective competition in a digital economy requires more than the political and economic system that Buffett describes in his essay. It requires collaboration on a massive scale with employees and customers alike, which in turn demands clear-eyed technology investments and an organizational commitment to embracing new behaviors.