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Is Defining an Industry’s Future the Role of a Leader? Not at IBM

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By Michael Palmer


At IBM, you don’t have to be an executive to create change

The world is seeing a shift in how we conduct business right now, organizations are having to proritise experiences and services ahead of products, and look to personalise these rather than producing for the masses. We are seeing leaders look for fresh opinions to help them make decisions; taking guidance from their younger employees alongside traditional executive boards to build strategy and direction for their organizations. Whether it comes in the form of reverse mentoring over a coffee, involving them in senior meetings and client decisions or through advisory sub-committees, the role the Next Generation (NextGen) is playing in sculpting the future of business is incredible – and IBM is firmly encouraging it.


Redefining industries from the bottom up

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a new development. Leaders have always looked to the future for inspiration, but in a world where digital first is the essential answer, who better to look to than those digital natives? Leaders in many industries are having a similar outlook – empowering the next gen to speak up and drive change.

In other markets, we have already seen the benefit of empowering the NextGen to drive decisions and change from the bottom up. Companies like Gucci have reported successful revenue increase through the adoption of bottom-up feedback. The Chief Executive, Marco Bizzarri, has created a ‘Shadow Committee’ of NextGen thinkers empowered to challenge and strategise alongside him.

The market is flooding with candidates that were born digital; they’re not only potential employees, but also future consumers. In many cases, this makes the NextGen best placed to understand how a user or customer wants to consume and in turn, help define how an industry should react.


Joining the IBM Millennial Corps

In early 2017, 12 months into the graduate programme with IBM, a mentor recommended that I should join IBM Millennial Corps, a huge community of millennials, and millennial-minded IBMers, to be one of our UK Ambassadors. With over 5,000 next-generation IBMers globally, our aim is to drive strategy, engagement and change from the bottom up.

We are empowered to influence decisions that our leaders make, and often their local business priorities, with our unique perspective. This manifests itself as internal engagement projects, meet-ups, education and more recently, working directly with clients.

One of the most exciting aspects of this role is that the team has a place on our country General Managers’ calendar. Not only do we have the opportunity to update him on our current projects, but to also input on key topics or directions that we see the business taking. Being afforded this regular opportunity to have an impact at a high level is just one of many examples where IBM encourages its younger employees to make a difference.


Disrupting the automotive industry

Our most recent update focused on the ambassadors’ visit to Germany to work with a large automotive client. We went with one simple objective: to redefine the automotive industry from the ground up. Our session, consisting of a team of the client’s future thinkers and 40 IBM Millennial Corps ambassadors from 12 countries, took place over three days in the IBM Watson IoT Tower in Munich.

The workshop centred around the principle that we, the 40 NextGen ambassadors, represented the future of automotive consumption. After three intense days, including a deep dive into the client’s brand from the client’s perspective, we came out with six different and equally strong strategies to disrupt the market – putting the industry and the client at the forefront of innovation.

So, was this just a bit of fun and big thinking for a few days? Well in some respect, yes… but importantly, the ideas each team defined are progressing into a serious discussion between IBM and the client. A true example of where the work of millennials is both driving business and revenue for IBM as well as helping shape the future of an entire industry.

The work I do at IBM, and the decisions I make, contribute to changes the world will see over the next few decades. There’s truly only a handful of places where you can do the same. This is why I joined IBM, not to learn about technology and consulting, but to drive disruption across entire industries.


Interested in joining a company that empowers you? Search for job opportunities at IBM or join the IBM Talent Network to get updates.


About the Author:

Michael Palmer is a Digital Strategy Consultant in IBM UK. He is focused on helping his clients realise their business objectives to stay ahead of the curve in this ever-changing competitive environment.

Whilst studying for his MSci in Biomedicine, Michael published a paper in on Systems Biology in the J Theoretical Biology, dived into the tech-start-up world, and engaged in business consulting with IBM. After-which, he decided to focus his career on client-centric, the experience led projects.

Since becoming an IBMer, Michael has worked with clients across six industries in three continents, published multiple blog pieces for IBM and helped to drive our cultural shift to focus on the benefits of Millennials in business – shouting about the benefits to internal and external audiences.

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