Georgia Watson (Sales Enablement Leader, IBM, ASEANZK) gave this presentation at the Sales Enablement Festival in October 2022. You can catch the full replay with an SEC membership here.

In this article, I’ll talk about some topics that I'm really passionate about: Innovation, sales enablement, inclusion, and why they matter to us.

First of all, though, I want to share a quick story.

A few years back, I had this feeling. I don't know whether you've had it, but I was drowning in spreadsheets, reporting, and managing some really challenging stakeholders.

One of my leaders came to me and said: “You should innovate more.”

I wanted to explode. I thought, “How can I do that? How can my team do that with everything that’s going on?”. There wasn’t the time for even one little ounce of creativity, let alone innovation.

If I was a cartoon there would’ve been steam coming out of my ears.

But something quite big came from that, and I took a number of actions. And I'm going to tell you more about them below. But it's partly because of what happened there that really got me interested in innovation and why it’s relevant to us in sales enablement, and particularly to business. And this is what we're going to cover in this article.

We're going to look at:

  • Our new context - changes to our market and audience
  • Why innovation is an imperative for business and sellers
  • Inclusion, culture, and actions we can take around this

Changes to our market and audience

We know that disruption is impacting everything. It's changing how we do business, how we sell, how our clients buy, us as individuals, and it’s necessitating reinvention in all of these different areas.

We know that during the pandemic there were massive transitions, with businesses becoming virtual along with changes to spending patterns. Everything became digital.

There were also massive changes in the way we work, the skills we need, and the expectations that our audiences have around learning - and these changes are going to continue, with 100 million workers potentially needing to switch occupations by 2030.

Thematic investing dubbed the 2020s as “a decade of work transformation” for business and learning. And I think they're probably right.

The rate of change has impacted us personally as well. Our screen time hours have increased significantly per day since pre-pandemic. A report that was done last year, which showed that 58% of sellers are struggling with their mental health, and we have distractions at whole new levels with so much going on in our lives and never-ending pings.

Our context has really changed. But the thing is, it’s not going to stop changing. This is one of my favorite quotes:

“The pace of change has never been this fast, and it will never be this slow again.”

So what do we do? We have to continue to evolve, to think differently, and to innovate.

Why innovation is imperative for business and sellers

There are lots of different definitions of what innovation is, and there's no right or wrong one. This one is from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

“A new idea or method, or the use of new ideas and methods.”

That's one version. The risk of this is that you may end up with lots of useless inventions that nobody uses.

I like this one a little bit more:

“A different approach to solve the problem of a specific audience.”

If there isn’t a problem to solve, what are we inventing and innovating for? And if there isn't someone it's relevant to or going to help, then what's the point?

When we do think about innovation, we often think about this big blue sky thinking: crazy, different, out there ideas that transform everything.

We think about Netflix and Uber, but the reality is that innovation can also be much smaller and much more incremental.

It may be taking something that works really well in one industry and applying it to a new industry. It can be an incremental improvement on a process. It can be an iterative process to make something better.

It doesn't have to be that big blue sky thinking that we associate it with.

Now, I work for IBM as a Sales Enablement Leader for ASEANZK, and I've been with the company for a little while. IBM has been around for over 110 years, and it’s been pretty good at evolving and innovating. I think that’s why it’s lasted so long.

IBM has made many different things over the years. But my personal favorite is a cheese grater, this was one of their earlier inventions. IBM has gone from cheese graters to supercomputers, data, AI, and cloud solutions.

So it's a massive shift and a massive journey.

In the early days, it was very much about slicing, weighing, and tabulating machines. And this was the big invention and innovation back in the day. It's hard for us to imagine. But there has been this continual evolution, and IBM does invest very heavily in R&D.

Historically, they always have. There's also a big focus on culture as well, which we’ll talk more about more shortly.