Senior Managing Consultant Kyoko Kokusho at IBM advises clients around the world on talent operations, organization architecture, and executive development. GLOBIS faculty Cristian Vlad recently interviewed her on how she creates value for clients, employees, shareholders, and society.

CV:         How do you ensure that your team delivers value to clients?

KK:         Frankly speaking, I don’t always know whether my team is delivering meaningful value. Even when I’ve known a client for a long time, depending on their specific situation, mood, relationships with others, and so on, “value” for them can change. On top of that, it’s a real challenge to identify their needs. They may think that they need some kind of technology, when in fact they really need to achieve a specific goal or create a new business reality.

In our business, it’s relatively easy to recommend one type of technology over another, but technology is a business enabler, not a destination. I encourage people in my team to stay one step ahead of clients in order to develop meaningful solutions. After all, “dedication to every client’s success” is one of our three IBM values. It is not about us, it is all about them!

CV:         It sounds to me like you are trying to out-smart your clients, in a way.

KK:         Not really. This is not only about being smart or progressive—it’s about having a genuine commitment to value creation, be it social or corporate. This is where the future is, I believe, and this is how I want my team to think and act as well.

The days of manufacturing products or solutions, taking them to market, and hoping that someone will buy them are gone. Smart customers today expect to be part of a co-creation process. If we fail to offer this opportunity, our customers do not take us seriously. In fact, we now begin every one of our engagements with a hands-on design thinking session, laying out the client’s whole spectrum of needs so that we can understand, co-iterate, and co-plan the development of solutions.

CV:         How do you make sure that your team stays engaged throughout this journey?

KK:         This is where true leadership comes into play. A good leader, to my mind, is someone who helps the team constantly innovate and grow. We all need to learn and evolve. I learn all the time, from everyone. This is how I have grown here at IBM, and this is how I want to help our next generations of leaders grow, as well.

CV:         How do you work effectively across borders?

KK:         For me, acknowledging that there are differences and not expecting the world to act, think, or behave the same as I do has always been a good place to begin. Many people today try to mitigate differences, but being humble and asking why people do certain things can solve a lot of problems. Pointing fingers or looking down on others has never really helped anyone. Smart and inclusive businesspeople know how to learn from others.

I work with my team to create a collaborative and culturally intelligent organization here at IBM. In the end, these diverse, committed associates can better address the needs of clients all across the globe.

Photo credit: Cristian Vlad

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