Thinking in terms of decades

One of my mentors is about to celebrate his quarter-century anniversary with IBM. Over biscuits and tea at my place, he shared insights into how the organizational culture has evolved in response to acquisitions, technological changes, and business needs. I really appreciate being able to learn from deep organizational knowledge like his, and it’s been very useful in helping me not only navigate IBM but also get a sense of what my future path might be like.

My mentor said that he could easily see me at IBM for more than twenty years. I told my mentor how I’d recently celebrated my two-year anniversary with IBM, and how I figured out a little bit more about work. As I explained my passion to the friends and mentors I’d brought together over tea, I found myself surprisingly comfortable with the knowledge that these ideas can take decades.

I want to help people connect and collaborate. I want to build a truly global organization. I want people to fully engage their passions and skills no matter where they are in the world. I want teams to collaborate across timezones and cultural differences. I want to enable leadership to be as diverse as the world. I care deeply about this for a number of reasons. I believe that there’s so much untapped talent in different geographies and organizational units. I believe that making it easier to talk and work together across all these boundaries will transform our innovation ecosystem. I want to make this happen:

And when everything and everyone is connected, we know what happens… work flows. It flows to the places where it will be done best—that is, most efficiently and with the highest quality. It’s like water finding its own level.

Sam Palmisano, IBM Chairman and CEO

IBM is probably the best company at which to explore this passion. We are global. We have good tools for collaboration, and we’re not only getting better at using what we have, we’re always improving our toolset. Because we’ve embraced it whole-heartedly, we experience the strains of timezones and blended hours, of collaboration and leadership when we aren’t face-to-face. We’ve come a long way in just the last decade, but we’ve only just begun the hard part of working in a globally integrated economy.

One of the amazing things about this passion is that even as a graduate student and now a new hire, I’ve been able to make a difference. I’ve become part of the web. And I can keep making a difference through writing and presenting, coaching and connecting. My formal job position influences my focus, how much time I can invest in helping people build these capabilities, and how well I can align with other resources and initiatives. As I learn more about what I want to do, the fit just keeps getting better and better.

In my current engagement, I’m helping create boundary-spanners who can work across organizational units. I’m figuring out what I’ve learned in the past two years about tapping resources and talent across the company, and training others to do that even better. I’m learning how other people align different parts of the organization and even the ecosystem so that we can work on complex challenges. I’m figuring out through experience how individuals can tap the network, how teams can organize information and work together, and how communities can facilitate discussions.

How can I grow? I want to get even better at helping individuals, teams, and communities learn more about and use existing tools. I want to spread success stories and good practices from all over the organization. I want to help figure out where the gaps are and envision where we might go next. I want to connect people with similar passions so that we can help transform the organization. I want to keep doing that as as our people and our processes improve, our tools get better and better, and as the business challenges get bigger and bigger. I want people to be able to do their best from anywhere.

This is an age-old dream. This is work that takes generations. I can’t wait to find out how we move this forward over the next few decades!