Blogging from Silicon Valley: Creating the evolution

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The second day in Silicon Valley for Telfer Executive MBA Class of 2015 began with a warm California sunshine and blue sky. On the agenda for the day were visits to IBM and Apple.

(Stock image)

The trip to IBM Almaden Research Center saw the bus snaking up a private road towards a few well-placed campuses that rest atop of a mountain. We were greeted warmly with a reception of refreshment by a most welcoming host.

Our first briefing was Jeff Welser, vice-president and lab director of IBM Research. The major research priorities include cloud 3.0, cloud-based networks, cognitive computing, managed data services, biospace revolution, the “Internet of things” and millennial enterprise. IBM is leading research areas that are 10 to 20 years out. How do they know how technology would advance over this time period? They know because they are creating the evolution. IBM is further pioneering the design of business applications across industry sectors and effectively influencing the new business needs of the future.

Our second briefing involved the importance of innovation in a business context by Deborah Magid, director of the IBM venture capital group. She stressed the need of addressing all aspects of a business when innovating, rather than just the actual product.

Ms. Magid argued many companies failed because they fail to look at the big picture and see how marketing, business models and competitors affect the business.

When pitching a company, she emphasized the importance of quickly articulating the product’s purposes and target market before explaining its business models. A successful pitch, she added, also includes a discussion of the company’s direct and indirect competitors.

The next three speakers focused on specific research, including the evolution of IBM Watson, best known for besting a pair of human contestants on Jeopardy!

Currently, IBM is working on the next generation of Watson, improving the computer’s ability memory, perception, conceptual learning, logic, problem solving and actuation.

Following this fascinating presentation, the class learned about SyNAPSE Cognitive Computing. The design goal is to mimic the human ability of cognition and to create the “best approximation to function, power, size and real-time operation of the organic 3D brain within inorganic 2D technology.” Lastly, we were introduced to the concept of smarter planet applications, in particular the area of creating greener materials for manufacturing such as water bottles.

–By Suzanne Grundy

This article is the second in a series this week on the University of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management Executive MBA class trip to the Silicon Valley. The trip is part of the EMBA curriculum on "Innovation and Entrepreneurship."

Organizations: IBM, IBM Almaden Research Center, University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management Executive MBA

Geographic location: Silicon Valley

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