I believe women, or management and negotiation techniques commonly attributed to women, will become essential in business as companies adopt the internet of things.
Maybe it’s because this week was International Women’s Day or perhaps it was reading this article in the Washington Post about how men’s negotiation styles have changed after Trump won the election, but the opportunity for women to really nail building connected products and services has stuck with me.
Most of my belief comes from the type of negotiating style required to build products that combine the data and expertise of several companies into one product. A company trying to build some kind of end-to-end solution, whether it’s for lighting, manufacturing or even farming, must establish collaborative relationships with its data partners, connectivity providers and other sources of expertise or data along the way.
These deals aren’t struck and done. They are ongoing, oftentimes requiring communication on a weekly or even daily basis. It’s not to say that men can’t negotiate and collaborate in this way, but there’s certainly a cultural bias in the U.S. toward a hard-charging, take-no-prisoners style of negotiating. President Trump is an example of that.
What drove this thinking home was an interview for this week’s podcast. I spoke with Ros Harvey, the CEO of an agricultural business called The Yield. In the interview, she explained how she looks for people who possess not just technological skills, but people who can collaborate and empathize with the problems her farmer customers have.
She says that while everyone has awesome technical skills, what really becomes important is how employees understand the business problem and the value chain, as well as how they then collaborate with others. “No one company can boil the ocean,” she says. “No one company can solve every problem. What you really want to do is collaborate.”
This focus on collaboration has implications on everything from how one architects a service (use APIs) to how she looks for data partners. “Fundamentally what you want is something much more like a data cooperative or market, rather than data monopolies,” she says.
To be clear, this doesn’t necessarily mean women in particular — although she says her team is diverse with 60% being female — but a mindset focused on solving a problem with other people to create a win-win for all.
Harvey isn’t alone in her beliefs about the way to solve business challenges using IoT. Understanding the business problem is job one according to people (men or women) who are building the most innovative connected services. Instead of selling what you have, companies are forced to listen and cobble together a new service. This has come across in conversations with Rose Schooler, VP of IoT strategy at Intel, who is trying to figure out a way to scale this process across different clients.
Better collaboration and striking deals that work for both her company, her customers and one day, even power providers, is something I’ve discussed with Maryrose Sylvester, the CEO of GE’s Current business. At Current, GE is trying to create a business around intelligent lighting that will reduce energy consumption, but also provide new services for customers such as Intel, Simon Property Group and The City of San Diego.
Such complex, ongoing relationships where people build a product together calls for a new style of leadership and a way of thinking about how to do business. This time, women have the edge.