FORTUNE -- Ginni Rometty's advice to companies: Don't define your business by a product. In a world of consistent and constant change, it's the most dangerous thing for a company to do. "You'll miss [technology] shifts. You'll miss dangerous ones like business models," said Rometty.
As Chairman and CEO of IBM (IBM), Rometty has seen the danger firsthand. Having spent more than 30 years at the company, she lived through the near-death experience of the early 1990s and is now just the ninth CEO in the company's 102-year history. It's this role that has earned Rometty, 56, the top spot on Fortune's list of the Most Powerful Women in Business.
Speaking October 16 at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., Rometty outlined five areas on which she depends to help her prepare IBM for future markets. First, there's research, an area in which the company has long been a leader. The company employs 3,000 Ph.D.s -- the largest research outfit in the technology industry -- and has been the global patent leader for the past 20 years. Just as important are relationships with clients, who are increasingly partnering more closely with IBM on innovation initiatives. Rometty also nurtures relationships with universities and with the venture capital community. And, thanks to new social tools, Rometty has been able to connect more deeply with IBM's 400,000 employees to unearth ideas bubbling up internally.
One secret to IBM's success has been the discipline it applies to nurturing these relationships and harvesting insights from them. For example, Rometty described the company's global technology outlook, a document that researchers prepare annually to map out future trends. Rometty depends on it to inform strategy, and each year grades past GTOs for their success in predicting trends.
It's this discipline that leads to breakthrough computing paradigms like Watson. It's been two-and-a-half years since the Jeopardy-winning computer beat a couple of brainiacs on national television -- and demonstrated that computing tools could store and sift through copious amounts of information, respond to natural language, and learn from its mistakes. It's technology that represents decades of work in IBM's labs, and the company is just beginning to commercialize it. I wrote about IBM's efforts to bring it to market in a recent Fortune feature .
Now, says Rometty, "Watson is off to medical school." The technology will be deployed at the Cleveland Clinic to help medical students better understand medical literature.
Meanwhile, in IBM's labs, scientists are working to improve Watson. "A Watson 2.0 will see -- pictures of things," says Rometty. "And a Watson 3.0 can reason with humans."
Clara Shih says true success is finding ways to empower others.
FORTUNE -- Fortune's Brainstorm Tech Conference (July 22-24 in Aspen, Colo.) regularly brings together the best and brightest minds in tech innovation. Each week, Fortune will turn the spotlight on a different conference attendee to offer his or her own personal insight into business, tech, and entrepreneurship. This week, we asked Hearsay Social founder and CEO Clara Shih to answer MOREJun 13, 2013 12:39 PM ET
IBM's CEO told Fortune what the future holds for the talking supercomputer.
FORTUNE -- On May 15, Fortune senior writer Jessi Hempel interviewed IBM (IBM) CEO Ginni Rometty as a keynote for the National Venture Capital Association's 40th anniversary conference, Venturescape. What follows is an edited version of their conversation.
Fortune: IBM was once about mainframes, and then PCs and printers. Now IBM is about services, software, Watson. How do you think MOREJessi Hempel, writer - May 17, 2013 11:35 AM ET
New survey results from job marketplace Elance.
By Kurt Wagner, reporter
FORTUNE -- A new survey by online job marketplace Elance found that men and women share similar opinions when it comes to women working in the tech industry. The results, which consisted of answers from close to 7,000 freelancers mainly in the U.S., found that both males and females agree on the top deterrents keeping women out of the tech industry, MOREApr 30, 2013 10:22 AM ET
In a male-dominated field, Etsy is trying a different approach to hiring new talent.
By Alison Overholt
FORTUNE -- Etsy had a woman problem.
Not among customers -- it would probably surprise no one that women made most of the $895 million in purchases on the site in 2012, or that fully three quarters of the 800,000 handmade and vintage merchandise shops hosted online by Etsy are woman-owned. But as Marc Hedlund MOREFeb 19, 2013 5:00 AM ET
As the Web grows more social and more mobile, women - entrepreneurs and users - are heeding the call.
By Jennifer Alsever, contributor
FORTUNE -- It's a woman's World Wide Web. Today's online experience is increasingly about connecting with people and sharing information -- and female users have responded enthusiastically. Some 56% of Twitterers are women; they are more than half of Facebook subscribers; and they make up 70% of Pinterest's MOREOct 1, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Few women have joined or founded startups and gained the kind of experience that enables their careers to explode like Marissa Mayer's. Here are specific recommendations on accelerating the pace of women in high-tech.
By Jack Hidary and Cindy Padnos
The announcement Monday that Yahoo (YHOO) selected Marissa Mayer as its new chief is a great signal for Silicon Valley. Marissa joined Google (GOOG) as its 20th employee back in 1999 MOREJul 17, 2012 9:55 AM ET
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