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One of the keynote interviews at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit was with Virginia Rometty, IBM’s CEO and the woman at the top of that list. A CEO’s most important job is looking out for the long term and reinventing their company as the world changes.
Rometty told Time Inc. Editor In Chief John Huey that she thinks that the most important part of accomplishing that won’t be a strategy or plan, but what she calls ‘strategic belief.’ Here’s how she describes the concept:
“…in a nutshell, you know, clients would often say to me, ‘What’s your strategy?’ And I would say, ‘Ask me what I believe first, that’s a way more enduring answer.’ And in the world you and I live in now where everything’s changing so quickly, you can’t predict everything, and — and this is probably the most important “and” — and most of us have workforces that are very bright, very intelligent, that want to be engaged in a broad way. This idea of a strategic belief is saying that you can agree amongst the firm for the future, on some really big arcs of change, I would call them.”
The benefit of hiring and promoting great people is what they add to a strategy or plan. They don’t necessarily want or need every point spelled out for them.
The example Rometty gives is her belief that the era of cognitive computing, where computers start to learn rather than just being programmed, is starting. That’s something that will completely change IBM, and it’s essential that the company follow that long term ‘directional arc.’
Strategic belief is something people can latch on to and use for motivation. It can lead to a workforce that reacts to changes, provides great input, and channels their energy in the right direction.
A plan can be well thought-out, intensely researched, and minutely detailed, but in an increasingly volatile world, that isn’t enough.
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