i.c. stars Highlights Disruption in the C-Suite

July 1, 2016

Putting a pretty fabulous spin on the traditional mixer, i.c. stars held a one-of-a-kind learning event on earlier this month: CXO Disrupt 2016. Anyone familiar with i.c. stars–an organization dedicated to preparing low-income Chicago youth for technology careers–knows to expect amazing things from the innovative team that leads it. Nevertheless, I didn’t expect an evening dedicated to examining the convergence of IT and marketing to kick off with a mixology contest. And I really didn’t expect to compete!

But that’s disruption, isn’t it? Unforeseen events create challenges and opportunities, and how we react makes all the difference. It’s one of the many lessons I took away from a night that zeroed in on C-suite disruption as CMO and CIO roles converge. Here are three more important lessons shared that night as well as details on the mixology contest’s winning drink (pictured below).
Lesson 1: Digital Must Pull Us Together, Not Apart
Another creative aspect of the evening was the pairing of dynamic duos, CIOs and CMOs from the same companies, who addressed the challenges and opportunities that stem from the convergence between marketing and technology. The companies and duos included:

  • Aon
  • Andrew Miller, Vice President, Global Corporate Marketing
  • Neeru Arora, SVP & CIO for Aon Shared Services and Chief Knowledge Officer
  • JLL
  • Jill Kouri, Chief Marketing Officer, the Americas
  • Eddy Wagoner, Global Chief Information Officer, Corporate Solutions
  • McDonalds
  • Deb Hall-Lefevre, Corporate VP, Global Enterprise Solutions & Business Transformation
  • Anja Carroll, Vice President, Media & Customer Engagement

Sharing valuable lessons on how their companies and roles are evolving and their roles overlapping, each duo reflected on how digital has reshaped their responsibilities and priorities. Digital has become a part of everyone’s job, and we learned that often times marketing and IT have their own, separate digital teams. Despite that revelation, “come together” was the message from the CIO-CMO duos as well as from speaker Jason Schwan who is the Founder & CEO at Solstice Mobile. The lesson focus on the important synergies between marketing and IT, such as customer data and insight, to work together to advance business goals and competitive advantage
Lesson 2: Small Can Lead
One of my favorite lessons of the night was when the McDonalds’ team told small businesses that they have a lot to teach today’s big companies when it comes to navigating disruption. It was not only important encouragement for small and startup businesses that often look to the Global 100 for roadmaps to success, but also a reminder of how agility in the face of change is a great advantage. It had us all considering how we can think and act smaller in order to innovate and achieve more.
Lesson 3: Embrace C-Suite Disruption or Fall Behind
Digital disruption is shaking up the C-Suite in big ways and participants, from speakers to the audience, agreed that the C-suite of tomorrow could look very different than it does today. We don’t know what titles will stay and go but we do know change will continue. My presentation shared how a rapidly emerging C-role, the Chief Digital Officer, is a result of increasing demand for digital knowledge at the leadership level. The lesson here was that shifts in the responsibilities and capabilities of C-level leaders are needed to address the changes echoing throughout the business at all levels. C-suite leaders who ignore their obligations to evolve are ignoring disruption at their own peril.
Who Won? CMOs, CIOs or Me?
When it comes to disruption in the C-suite, CIOs, CMOs and the whole business wins when the focus is on working together to achieve strategic goals rather than myopically focusing on individual or departmental responsibilities. When it comes to mixing a drink that speaks to disruption, my team, “Team red,” which included myself; Jill Kouri, chief marketing officer of the Americas at JLL; Eddy Wagoner, Global Chief Information Officer, Corporate Solutions at JLL; Deb Hall-Lefevre, Corporate VP, Global Enterprise Solutions & Business Transformation at McDonald’s; and Anja Carroll, Vice President, Media & Customer Engagement at McDonald’s, won with a two-phase cocktail. We called it the sugar and spice mullet because it was business up front (a peach martini) followed by a party in the back (a blueberry margarita with a jalapeƱo). It was our metaphor for how disruption feels. Business is smooth and sweet and then “boom” something totally unexpected and fiery comes along. I found the contest an inspired reminder of how we need to “take life in,” challenges and all. Embrace disruption with creativity and it won’t own you. You will own the disruption.