Mark Davison at IBM Think, Las Vegas – The world of business and technology is on the brink of yet another “golden era” that only occurs once, maybe twice, in the average person’s lifespan, says IBM’s chairman, president and CEO, Ginni Rometty.

Addressing delegates packed to the rafters for her opening keynote of Think 2018 at the Mandalay Bay Events Centre – “There are 30 000 to 40 000 people piped in and in this room,” she quipped – Rometty says that the industry and business have reached a point in time rarely experienced throughout their respective histories.

“We’re at an exponential moment when business and technology change at the same time,” she says. “It only happens every 25 years or so and in the last 60 years, there have only been two times when, because of technology, business experienced exponential change. The first occasion was with Moore’s Law and the doubling of processing power every year; the second with Metcalfe’s Law that transformed business with a worldwide network and saw the creation of companies such as Facebook.

“Now, we have the third exponential shift with the addition of AI and exponential learning,” she says. “All the previous laws have been named. Maybe it’s time for Watson’s Law.

“The corollary to this law, however, and contrary to conventional wisdom, is that many can win and not just a couple of companies.”

Rometty says the new exponential shift will be driven by data.

“Only 20% of the world’s data is searchable,” she says. “Who’s got the other 80%? And it’s that data – about your customers, about other aspects of your business – that leads to exponential learning.”

She adds that there are three inflection points involved: “It’s about your business; it’s about society; and it’s really for IBM too.”

If business – any business – embraces the new technology becoming available during this exponential shift, it can only lead to success.

“For business, as a disruptor, I want you to think about going on the offensive, and to be in the lead you have to do three things: you will leverage digital platforms; you will embed learning in everything; and you will empower your people through digital intelligence.

“It’s about man and machine, not man versus machine,” Rometty says.

“You’ll notice I said platforms and not just platform,” she continues, “because you will be using a whole set of platforms from other people, not just ours. Then you put learning into everything that you do. It’s estimated that $2-trillion is the amount involved if we could make better decisions. So put AI in every process. And empower your people … man and machine has always got a better answer than man alone or machine alone.

“If you do these three things, that is putting smart to work,” she adds. “You’re changing the way the world works and have a wonderful chance to grow exponentially.”