I spent most of last week in Mexico City. The main purpose for the trip was to participate in an "InnovatorsTour" with colleagues from IBM's technical community in Mexico and from our growing Hispanic technical community in the US.
We had a very good dialogue with faculty members and administrators from some of the top private and public universities in Mexico. We discussed the increasing focus on innovation, the growing need for technical talent and the kinds of jobs where we can expect higher demand in the future, as well as the various programs we have in IBM aimed at universities, faculty and students. The Innovators Tour also included meetings with groups of students in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Cuernavaca where we talked about some of our most exciting initiatives in IBM and tried to encourage them to pursue technical careers.
One of the most interesting meetings I had was a round table with leading bloggers in Mexico, where we had really good discussions on a variety of subjects. If you understand Spanish, you can read about our round table here, here and here. Joining me from IBM was Eugenio Godard Zapata, who is the executive director of our manufacturing and technology site in Guadalajara and who just started his own blog (in Spanish) last month, and Manuel Avalos Vega, who is an engineer at our Guadalajara site and leads our Technical Vitality Council in Mexico.
We talked about why IBM has embraced blogging this past year, encouraged our employees to participate in the "blogosphere,"and developed a "Blogging Policy and Guidelines" to help our people. In my opinion, blogging is one of the major next directions for the World Wide Web. So, just as we encouraged all our employees, customers and everyone else to get on the Web when the Internet started to take off in the marketplace some ten years ago, we are once more encouraging them all to be part of the evolution of the Web, of which blogging is a major part. The reason is very simple. Every business needs to be very much in tune with what is going on in the marketplace, not just as a passive observer, but if at all possible, as a participant. That's why back then, once it was clear that the Internet would be a very big force for business, we encouraged everyone to get on it so they could figure out, as early as possible, how best to leverage the Internet in whatever they do. While it may be too early to know the impact that blogging will have on business in general, it is certainly not too early to get involved and learn as much as possible through active participation.
In addition to bloggers, our meeting included members of the "traditional" press, so there was quite a bit of discussion about the differences between blogs and traditional media. Blogs are not edited and fact-checked like newspapers, for example, and in that sense they should not be viewed as reliable sources of information. Anybody can say whatever they want to in their blogs - and many do. Blogs should be viewed as sources of opinion, not of objective information. But, in the end the biggest difference between blogs and traditional media is their highly interactive, community nature. The blogosphere includes an incredible diversity of opinions on every possible subject, and those subjects get extensively discussed and heatedly debated by whoever cares about them. Furthermore, it is the real-time interactivity that keeps blogs "honest", since people will very quickly point out any real or perceived mistakes in blogs.
Our round table went on for close to two hours, and we discussed a number of other subjects. It was not only a very good, enjoyable meeting, but I learned a lot as well.
The blogging discussions, like all my meetings in Mexico took place in Spanish. To me, it is a special treat to visit Mexico, Spain and other countries where I am able to conduct all my meetings and be immersed in my native tongue. I came from Cuba to the US in 1960 when I was 15 and 1/2, so I am fluent in Spanish although, having lived in an English world since then, my Spanish vocabulary is pretty rudimentary, especially when it comes to conducting any kind of serious discussion about business, technology or other subjects. But, my brain somehow engages, and after a while, Spanish words that I was not even aware I knew start flowing out of my mouth. And, after a few days of speaking and thinking in my native tongue, I even begin to notice changes in what I say and how I feel about the subjects I am talking about, as if using Spanish is somehow accessing parts of my brain not easily accessed in English.
With blogs, one can feel free to mix serious discussions of what went on in your meetings with personal observations, such as the enjoyment of conducting the meeting in one's native tongue. To me, it is a big part of the appeal of blogs.