When We Innovate With Our Whole Self, Everything Changes

It feels like the world is evolving faster and faster, from a sudden reset on remote work practices to radically shifts in buyer behaviour to the onset of virtual everything.

What will this new era demand of us? What will it ask of companies and brands? How will we innovate new solutions and inspire one another?

Certainly, we will need to restructure our imperatives. While EBITDA margins will continue to matter, so too will our human approach to innovation. Pioneering new possibilities means growing, fueling and recognizing our whole self, not just building out our resumes. Organizations, too, will look beyond metrics, focusing on creating a culture of innovation where people are excited to contribute ideas and draw from their personal passions.

What got me musing about all this? First, the doorbell rang. Then, I stepped out onto my front porch and saw a box. After tearing open the top, I was surprised at what I found: a white sculpture made from each letter in the word “THINK.”

This cool piece of art arrived on the heels of me signing up for IBM Think 2021 set for May 11 and 12. The line-up of visionaries, idea-makers and doers is impressive, but I also found the wide range of topics to signal a positive trajectory ahead of us.

Catch a glimpse of the future from these powerful thought leaders:

  • I remember watching Adam Grant’s “Are You a Giver or a Taker?” TED Talk and loved it. An organizational psychologist, Adam is the author of “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.” His talk at Think 2021 is: Cubicle vs. Couch: Is the Future of Work Hybrid?.
  • IBM CEO Arvind Krishna will catch up on his vision after stepping into the role in the midst of the pandemic last year. I look forward to listening to his grand vision on the world’s platform for digital transformation.
  • Maurice Ashley is a Chess Grandmaster, the first African American to achieve this title. I hope to interview Maurice on my CXO Spice Talk show about his perspective of the world as a chess board. It will be fascinating to hear his thoughts as I enjoyed playing chess growing up.
  • Tom Rosamilia, SVP for IBM Systems, will explore how to “ put security everywhere in order to create trust everywhere.” Side note: Tom and I met at IBM’s IT Executive Summit in July 2019. A favourite memory of mine is hanging out with this truly visionary leader in the cigar bar sponsored by IBM (it was the first time I had ever tried smoking a cigar; I learned the right way to light one up and really enjoyed it!) while talking about his 2008 visit to Beijing, China, which is not far from where I grew up.
  • There are several fascinating panel discussions as well like “How Trustworthy is Your AI?” Trust is an emotion so bringing our whole self to a situation means turning on our trust barometer inside and making judgements based on feeling – which is a good companion to data-driven facts.

As a student of digital transformation, the first day of the event is a topical feast for me. I am registered for “The World’s Platform for Digital Transformation,” “Achieving Revenue Growth Through Transformation, Automation and Scalable AI,” and “Accelerate Your Digital Transformation” (if you see me in the chat section, flag me down and say hello).

Think 2021 is set to inspire how we approach innovation by the classic writer’s rule: “show, don’t tell.” Neuroscience teaches us that we make sense of the world through our senses. Think 2021 definitely stirs the senses as the event debuts three unique augmented reality experiences using IBM technology.

Participants can bring these elements into their own personal spaces using mobile devices. Imagine entering the event through sound and the feeling of surprise and delight as you rotate the Think “cube” with a swipe of your hand. With each rotation, one layer of music from a composition by Indie pop artist Imogen Heap will be audible. By the end of the experience, multiple layers of music will combine to offer a complete performance featuring Imogen Heap’s earthy, ethereal voice.

Not your typical tech conference, right? IBM Think 2021 goes much further than anything I’ve ever seen.

For me, bringing my whole self to innovation means stretching myself to grow and expand. I bring my whole self to work when I meet the customer where they are, in the moment they are in, and with an anticipation for what they need. When I listen to what matters to my team, we learn from each other, thrive together, innovate together and engage beyond our practical talents. We find the humanity in one another, which leads me to something I believe in passionately.

At the crossroad of #tech and #humanity comes growth. It is there that we hold a mirror to our humanness, our whole self, what we do and who we are. At Think 2021, I hope you’ll explore all the different topics and speakers at the event and find something that not only furthers your knowledge, but also your curiosity.


From time to time, IBM collaborates with industry thought leaders to share their opinions and insights on current technology trends. The opinions in this post are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM.