Leaders Share How The Cognitive Era Is Transforming Business


Robert Reiss, Contributor

January 12, 2016

The third transformative era brings us full circle. The first transformative era was when the industrial revolution changed the driving force from muscle to machine. The second era was from machine to mind, when leaders like J.P. Morgan created new industry. Then in 1950 an IBMer Arthur Samuel created a computerized checkers game where instead of being programmed – for the first time – the machine actually learned. This ushered the third era of mind and machine, completing the full circle, and with the likes of Watson, this has been dubbed the cognitive era.

The two burning questions are:

  1. How will digital change the future?
  2. How are industry leaders leveraging digital today?

To answer these, I convened leaders of several industries: wealth management, consumer products, mobility, education, technology and printing:

  • Keith Banks, President, U.S. Trust
  • Julie Bauer, President, Panasonic Consumer N.A.
  • Ralph de la Vega, President & CEO, AT&T Mobile & Business Solutions
  • David Levin, President and CEO, McGraw-Hill Education
  • Bob Picciano, Senior Vice President, IBM Analytics
  • Tom Quinlan, CEO, RR Donnelley & Sons Company

Robert Reiss: How will digital change the future?

Julie Bauer: There will be tools that will help companies see who their customers are and what they want, which will help fuel an era of personalization.

Ralph de la Vega: Cyber security has become a top priority for CEOs and CIOs. There are only two kinds of companies today… those that have experienced a data breach and those that will be breached.  In many cases there is data leaving a company’s infrastructure without leadership being aware of it. Our experience shows that about 40% of data breaches are inside jobs.

David Levin: Human potential is reaching a new level, and this will be significantly enhanced by data.

Tom Quinlan: There will be an increasing amount of new communication tools, which will ultimately make people’s lives easier.

Keith Banks: We’re just at the beginning of digital, data-driven tools and soon we will extend their availability … Millennial workers are so natural with these tools and they will transform the workplace.

Bob Picciano: IOT will drive the next wave of cloud, the majority of data will now live at the edge of the network with value being lost almost instantly. This shift will lead to a new age of autonomous network design with analytics native to its core. Ultimately It’s not the Things in the Internet of Things, but the business transformation and outcomes that come form instrumentation of this data.

Reiss: How are you leveraging digital today?

Bauer: Panasonic is actually creating a smart city development in Denver, although we’re not a city planner. We’ll help create connected homes and we’ll do things like putting information into the hands of consumers about how they are consuming energy. Panasonic has found customers are no longer scared of information; in fact they deeply value information. And interestingly, we’ve learned internally about technology innovation; what we’ve found is that as we plan through the development process that more innovation comes from business units than from IT, and we think that’s because instead of starting with technology they start with the final experience instead.

Picciano: Organizations are just beginning to understand the shift to an “Insight” Economy.   Through cognitive solutions, we are helping companies derive insights from unstructured data sources like social media to find new patterns both inside and outside the firewalls and across industry. Examples include The Weather Company and IBM Watson are providing answers to highly complex problems, or refining the correct clinical trials, or research done by wealth advisors. We’ve learned how people interact with machine-oriented data, and how it is connected, meaning that machine learning and cognitive systems will be far more effective than previous systems. Data is truly becoming the middle manager, which is enabling unbiased actionable decisions, fueling this emerging “Insight” Economy and ultimately creating new sources of competitive advantage.

Quinlan: We’ve discovered that by building a culture where employees are encouraged to submit ideas, we are able to harvest more innovation. We’ve actually changed our mindset to be able to applaud failure, and realize that failure often drives new innovative success.

Levin: We’ve focused heavily on expanding our digital offerings and delivering corporate training and education. What we’ve discovered is that through data and analytics we are able to help HR departments determine who is progressing most successfully in their training, which clearly is valuable insight for our clients. Part of our success has been going against industry trends and hiring software engineers to strengthen our in-house capabilities.

Banks: We are becoming more of a tech company where we are decreasing the number of physical branches while investing heavily in digital experiences. The big data opportunity is so immense, strategic and tactical. Our analytics team is focused on harnessing data like customer demographics, resources and investment opportunities to make more targeted decisions.

de la Vega: Real time information is almost as dramatic as the industrial revolution itself.  Things that have never been connected before are now connected, like cars where car manufacturers and owners can have 24×7 real time information on the status of brakes and other critical components. A great customer example on the AT&T side is with Maersk where we now connect 280,000 refrigerated containers, enabling those containers to communicate critical information like temperature, humidity and geographic location. We are also prototyping  sensors that feature solar and kinetic energy powered batteries that have a projected 10-year life.

On the internal front, we removed all of the cash registers from our AT&T stores and replaced them with tablets so employees can interact more directly with the customer. With real-time information (aggregated and anonymized) customer traffic patterns in our stores give us the capability to change digital signage in real time based on customer shifts throughout the day.  And, our employees also have a great opportunity to become even smarter by obtaining nano degrees all the way up to a Masters in Computer Science degree online through our close collaboration with Georgia Tech and Udacity. It is going to be an exciting future for all.

To listen to interviews with CEOs go to www.ceoshow.com

Also on Forbes:

Tips & Secrets From Top CEOs

This article was written by Robert Reiss from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Comment this article

Great ! Thanks for your subscription !

You will soon receive the first Content Loop Newsletter