jonathan adashek

Disrupt and Transform: IBM CMO/CCO Jonathan Adashek on How the Company Evolves


How does a company founded in 1911 stay relevant and a leader in the tech space today? Continual evolution and a willingness to disrupt.

IBM has long been a leader in the technology industry because of its willingness to experiment and challenge the status quo. Chief Communications and Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Adashek attributes that to staying on top of advancements and being willing to adapt and find creative solutions.

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna recently said that today’s workforce should be prepared to work hand in hand with AI, a sentiment Adashek agrees with. Leveraging AI, IBM shrunk its HR department from 700 employees doing relatively mundane tasks to 50 people, freeing employees to provide career guidance and support. As Adasheck says, IBM believes AI needs to augment people, not replace them. In the example of the HR team, IBM uses AI to automate gathering all sorts of people data so that human leaders can decide whether or not someone gets hired or promoted. Humans don’t have to spend hours combing through data; they can turn that analysis over to AI and then use the results to make their own decision.

In another example, IBM used its innovative Watson technology to train AI responses to common questions from parents at a children’s hospital. Providing relevant and personalized AI responses allowed doctors and nurses to spend more time on the floor interacting with patients than answering routine patient questions. That innovative thinking and willingness to try new things and reallocate people to better positions sets IBM apart.

Hand in hand with AI is IBM’s modern approach to data management. Adashek says many companies struggle with data because there’s simply too much of it. Knowing how to segment and use the data to deliver the best customer experience is a common challenge. IBM leverages third-party providers like Adobe to organize and analyze customer insights, create the content customers need, and deliver it to them when needed.

Leaning into AI and data has also helped IBM expand its agile content creation. Adasheck says what used to be a months-long process to create and disseminate content and track results can now happen in weeks. AI helps create the content, and data informs what message to send to specific groups. Seeing results and adjusting in real time helps IBM stay relevant and build stronger client relationships.

Adashek says there’s still plenty of room for growth, especially when understanding the best messaging for various clients. But an essential step to success is being willing to take risks, experiment, and adjust as needed.

And, of course, progress isn’t possible without trust. IBM has disrupted industries by leveraging new technology, but at the foundation of its client relationships is trust that allows it to experiment and grow more quickly. When you trust and understand clients, you can offer their tailored recommendations to grow their businesses and engage them further, which leads to growth for both parties.

Companies can’t stick with how things have always been done, especially for a legacy company like IBM. But leaning into new technology, being willing to take risks, and continually evaluating and adjusting helps companies disrupt and lead the future.

This episode is sponsored by IBM.

Links mentioned in this episode: 

5 Pillars of Personalization at Scale:
“What If” press release:


Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist and the bestselling author of The Customer of the FutureFor regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here

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