In my previous blog, I introduced the concept of Five to Thrive. These leadership tips can help you navigate a world of astounding change and mind-boggling opportunities. And, hopefully, avoid the risks and threats hiding around every corner.

To learn about the first three—Recognize the Source of Value, Take Action Against Blind Spots, and Stop Failing Fast—visit my previous blog. Today, I’m sharing No’s. 4 and 5 in Five to Thrive: Close the Loop on Technology Investments and Build a Listening Infrastructure.

To innovate, and ultimately succeed, we need to pay particular attention to how we innovate, not the tools we use to innovate. You might think this runs a bit counterintuitive from an IT perspective. But not so. Our world has changed so much—and so fast—that the how should always come first.

No. 4: Close the Loop on Technology Investments

Technology investments begin and end with people.  For instance, you start by identifying a problem that impacts people–your customers, partners, suppliers, or employees. Then you identify a dark asset. A thing you want to connect that’s not physically connected today. The next step is to extract data from that asset, and apply analytics to impact business process. So far we have People, Things, and Data. Many tech leaders stop at this point without closing the loop by fundamentally providing a connection back to people, which results in a new action being taken and value recognized.

It’s amazing how many leaders stop short of closing this loop.

Here’s an example. A supermarket wants to shorten checkout lines, because when people perceive or see a long line they abandon their carts. So enter a dark asset—a shopping cart or parking lot. Once connected, it lets the store know how many people are in the store, entering the store, and where they are in the store. They also have data to determine when customers were headed to the checkout line, so they could call for more cashiers. Perfect, right!

Problem is, they didn’t close the technology loop. They stopped at things and data. The manager would announce when more checkers were needed. Customers would hear the announcement that lines were long and abandon their carts. Hence, eliminating all value from the IoT solution.

Closing the loop on that last mile is critical. Notifying the checkers through a connection that a particular checkout line is long without announcing it to all the customers closes the loop. You have to close the loop with people.

No. 5: Build a Listening Infrastructure

Insight has become the currency of the 21st century. If you want to make clear sense of all of the tools available, and truly begin to innovate, take data and move it to insight. You do this by building a listening infrastructure.

When most people make decisions, they only use one or two sources at best. You may start with your own intuition, your gut, and you may refer to an expert or friend you know, someone that you’re close to in the organization before you make that decision.

Next time you need to make an important decision, write down who your listening sources are. You may find you’re making a financial decision and you’re not talking to anyone in finance, let alone the CFO. Use this exercise to find your listening gaps. It could be data from your organization’s ERP system, economic indicators, social media, or even naysayers. Don’t be afraid to hear all sides before deciding.

If you want better outcomes, and we all do, be vigilant. We’re living in a highly innovation environment, where changes comes fast and failure can come even faster. Make Five to Thrive part of your leadership toolkit, and watch innovation come to life.




Joseph M. Bradley

Global Vice President

Digital & IoT Advanced Services