A strange exchange: A master inventor and a jazz musician explore disruption, innovation and IT automation

By | 3 minute read | January 29, 2018

IBM master inventor Mickey Iqbal recently sat down with jazz musician and Columbia University professor Chris Washburne to discuss the common ground between jazz and IT infrastructure. It quickly became evident that these two seemingly disparate professions are impacted by some of the same trends: disruption, innovation and IT automation.
What advice would you give CIOs as they face disruption?

Mickey: My message to CIOs is, “I dare you to be disruptive.” If you’re not disruptive, then you’re going to get disrupted. The way you can be disruptive is by thinking through and adopting a technology framework that’s well-aligned with your business strategy; one that is flexible, agile, nimble and scalable and that’s going to allow you to change at the speed of business as things change in your surroundings.

How does disruption manifest itself in the world of jazz?
Chris: If nothing is changing, that’s death. Life is ever-changing. Why not embrace those changes? That’s the way we grow. That’s what jazz sounds out; it sounds out resiliency because when you’re resilient, you’re adaptive to whatever comes your way. That’s the jazz musician’s mantra.

Take Miles Davis, one of the greatest jazz trumpet players in the world. He’s one of the most iconic images used in marketing in terms of innovation and how he could adapt and be on the forefront of change. How did he do it? He did it through disruption. For instance, one way of disrupting is to fire your entire band and hire a younger generation of musicians so that they can have equal input. Then they go out and become innovators themselves.

Can you explain augmented intelligence?
Mickey: When it comes to IBM Services Platform with Watson, a lot of people ask me if AI refers to artificial intelligence. I tell them no; it refers to augmented intelligence. This AI — or cognitive technology — helps humans make sense of the massive amounts of data in the world to make the right decisions. It’s not replacing humans; it’s augmenting the work that we do.

As an example, IBM has managed tons of clients across the globe for many years. We have data on the incidents, problems, changes and all the tickets that have occurred with their systems. For any one individual, it’s impossible to work through all this data and make an intelligent decision. With IBM Services Platform with Watson, we’re able to take all this data and then autonomously predict when a failure might happen at a client’s site. And even when failures do happen, we fix them in an automated fashion. Operations keep running. That’s augmented intelligence.

What is dark data?
Mickey: There has been exponential growth in data over the last few years. Some estimates predict about 44 zettabytes by 2020. We say that 80 percent of this is dark data — video, text messages, tweets, sounds, sensors in appliances and vehicles that send signals and information. All that data is in a semi-structured or unstructured format. It’s not like the relational database of the old days where you can process information easily. All this dark data contains valuable insights. Cognitive technology allows you to mine this data for insights to help you make better decisions.

Can you explain the importance of scalability to jazz?
Chris: Sometimes you play as a duo, trio or quartet and sometimes in a big band. To be able to adapt to that situation requires not only experience in virtuosic adaptability but also the skills to know the proper way to play when there are 21 musicians on stage or just three. There’s a fluidity and adaptability that must be there when we’re adjusting to scale.

How does IT automation facilitate innovation?
Mickey: IT automation tries as much as possible to eliminate the need for humans to complete lower-level tasks so their expertise can be scaled further. Through our cognitive services, we enable CIOs to spend more time on the innovation part of their businesses, creating new business models and revenue and really doing the kinds of things that will make their businesses more competitive.

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