Exclusive Ideagen Interview Part II with Capgemini’s Kim Smith

Suspend disbelief. Truly profound. On that note, what key lessons and vantage points have helped you successfully carry out this role?


I think there are a few things that I’ve learned. Success is fleeting, and failure is not permanent. Being conscious of the fact that all the great things that were done yesterday in my mind are fleeting, and it’s really important to constantly be focused on new ways to do things; new ways to change. I approach every day and everything that I do in this way, and I think that this is core to the way Capgemini is wired as well. I scan the market and consider what will impact the business start to imagine a new future. There’s a term that we use which is really focusing on ‘future casting’ the business that we drive. Future casting and future proofing ourselves as individuals so that when the next wave of change comes, we’re really ready to accelerate and go around the corner with the gas on the pedal and not on the brake.

Incredible. How does Capgemini effectively innovate and positively affect customers on a global basis with that lens of future proofing?

We do multiple things in the area of driving businesses to embrace and encourage positive impact by fueling disruption to future proof themselves. Many ways don’t just involve profitability alone or creating new business models in a vacuum but infusing a commitment to inclusion, community, and sustainability. Everything from extending environmental compliance in our facilities across the globe, to supporting our clients’ corporate social responsibility efforts, and embracing and valuing diversity & inclusion across the whole spectrum: gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, culture, social backgrounds, to fostering social innovation entrepreneurship through technology, and finally bridging the digital divide: promote digital literacy and fluency collaboratively with our employees, clients, partners, and communities.

Our Merlin data center in the UK has won numerous sustainability awards and is one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world. We make sure that everyone in our organizations is clear on not only environmental compliance and expectations but on what it takes to proactively make an impact in business and in the communities and with people in our communities. Our goal is to touch 1 million lives by 2020. Our commitment is to make positive impact in the world where we live. We want employees to support not only the business needs of the companies we work with but also empower our people to be more creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial in their approach to sustainability.

I believe our commitment here is what has won Capgemini recognition for being one of the world’s most ethical companies in the world, FTSE4Good Ethical Sustainability Index Excellence across Europe and other parts of the world, and the only global Solution Integrator who has received the Global Business Certification for Gender Equality (EDGE).

We’ve been named in multiple countries around the world as the top 50 employers for women. We’ve been named in multiple countries as well for best diversity employer We’ve also extended our environmental programs with ISO 14001 certification not only in Europe but in India and other geographies. We have a commitment to make sure that our impact is positive in everything that we do, which has direct impact to our bottom line. This type of mindset and cultural model has clear implications in the business world. Organizations used to be on the S&P 500 for upwards of 50 years. This is no longer the case. We are moving into a time where companies are going to be lucky to be on that list for a decade max. With that level of unpredictability we feel that it is more critical than ever to focus on corporate responsibility and sustainability in a way that has positive impact and implications on global economies. We’re making an impact by actively encouraging everyone in our company to get involved in not only the communities we serve but also in global initiatives around everything from sustainability to human rights, environmental and infrastructure, pro bono consulting, volunteering, mentoring, and most importantly, innovating across every aspect of our business to improve, re-envision, and maximize impact aligned with results.

At Capgemini, we feel blessed to have the opportunity to work Ideagen, the United Nations, and the European Union in support of Sustainable Development Goals 2030 as a collaborative business partner. I believe that it will have a profound impact on the generation of new ideas, new thoughts, new ways of approaching and executing against new business models, and then driving forward focused execution. Getting from ideation to innovation to scale - this is the most critical aspect of making a difference in the world. Fueling disruption through dexterity is our mantra.

We, of course, absolutely agree, and thank you. Completely look at the world in this way and trying to connect the dots to make the world a better place and address many of the world’s most vexing issues. Taking perhaps all of the perspectives you just shared, how is Capgemini looking at the future to positively affect individuals across the planet? You’ve cited so many examples. Perhaps we could dovetail into specifics on a few areas that you feel are most compelling.

Enabling economies to build innovative infrastructures is one compelling area. We have learned a great deal from examples like Bergen, a city of the future. They really see themselves as the smart city of the world. They were able to save 1.3 million euro a year and completely transform the way they think about their communities and the people they serve not to mention the way they operate. We also have created new ways to consume goods and products through immersive experiences in retail and manufacturing by incorporating cloud and digitally enabled capabilities that decrease dependency on products that have a significant carbon footprint.

For many of the companies we engage, we simply provide the tools, guidance, and support for organizations to help figure out their path toward a new vision of their reality. We often work with Fortune 1000 companies to help them innovate and find new ways to disrupt and provoke positive impact. Most importantly, we help them drive value through their commitment to making the world a better place. We focus our time and energy on the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development agenda and goals when we initiate compelling conversations in the industries that we serve. C-suite executive are constantly trying to identify ways that they can truly impact the world while creating net new business models. We work to maintain that commitment to stewardship and think outside the box. This isn’t just about organizations making money this is about improving lives and changing the world.

The way we approach this is through our Collaborative Business Experience. We work very closely across sector boundaries to help organizations exceed their own expectations, to break down barriers, and to focus on ways to look for cross-sector collaboration to drive for sustainability and impact tapping into the expectations set through the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 with positive implications for their own market and financial standing.

There are so many stories of awesomeness organizations have achieved by balancing their profitability expectations aligned with positive impact. Capgemini provides so many great examples you can explore digitally where you’ll see that we really let these organizations tell their own story. We simply bring the imagination, speed & agility of digital while excelling at the fundamentals of performance, reliability, scalability, and sustainability. We connect vision to reality, emerging with foundational, people through technology. To put it simply, we focus on helping companies move from business intent to value realization.

Incredible. You mentioned cross-sector collaboration. Kim, why is cross-sector collaboration and innovation so vital to helping to solve many of the world’s most vexing issues, and how does Capgemini infuse this collaboration; you’ve touched on this throughout this interview, but we’d love to hear more, and innovation into your daily mission to successfully achieve your goals?

When you think about what it means to have cross-industry, cross-sector collaboration, what we are really trying to achieve is the acceleration of growth at the right speed, the right scale, maturely and sustainably, and apply innovation in just the right way at the right time to truly have impact. For any given industry to do that on their own, there are simply too many boundaries and limitations to give them the speed to market they need to stay ahead of existential threats. We do much of our innovation through our 40+ Applied Innovation Exchanges around world where we come together with our clients, partners, & startups to solve complex business issues to and make magic happen. It is in these environments where we see true collaboration occur. People leave preconceived notions at the door (suspend disbelief!) and have radical ideas that then have immediate implications on the future growth of their business. It is quite fascinating to be a part of and quickly creates an immediate connection to how to develop innovation as a discipline.

One great thing that cross-industry collaboration provides is a cohesiveness, a network of global exchanges. It provides a transformative environment for discovery and testing and application of innovation. It really provides an opportunity to curate and establish an ecosystem to plan for shifts; shifts in technology, shifts in marketing, shifts in people’s mindsets, shifts in demographics. A cohesive commitment to fail quickly, learn, and try again. By having that connective, cohesive network and collaborative environment, by constantly scanning and curating, you learn. You learn from other people’s failures. You learn from other organization’s failures, you learn from your own failures. It’s much easier to move quickly when you move past the fear of falling, put your helmet on and be willing to try again.

The average startups fail at least five to seven times before it becomes a success. When startups work with large corporations across multiple industries in our Applied Innovation Exchange labs and we facilitate the interactions between these organizations which is a completely different environment in which either type of organization is used to working. We watch startups that are here now that weren’t here five years ago working with a centennial global conglomerate and watch as the old dog can do new tricks. What big firms learn from start-ups is a willingness to be open to a faster pace of change. They recraft, re-imagine, reinvigorate. They start to look at things differently, and they rebuild themselves over and over again. Corporations are learning that they need to adopt a startup mentality and mindset in balance with maintaining a level of stability the culture craves. It is okay to fail but fail small, fail quickly, and learn from it, and get back up. This is a marathon of sprints. A tremendous opportunity to learn from each other, to test, and take the experiences that others have had to learn what’s going to work and what’s going to have the most positive impact at scale is where we see the most powerful breakthroughs occur.

Kim, that is simply profound. Equally profound, we are at the point of the interview where we ask a key question. Kim, what are the three key lessons you have learned that have the potential to change the world?

The three lessons that I think I’ve learned I’ll sum up into maybe four words: Be bold, brave, brilliant. What I’ve learned in my experience is that to not take a risk is losing out on an opportunity to truly change the world and to impact others. Being vulnerable enough to be bold and to focus on opportunities that are perceived as impossible or can’t be done is critical to the success of anything that you want to achieve. Being brave, curious, and comfortable in the fact that it may not go, and most likely it will not go the way you think it will, but your new normal will create a center of gravity, peace, connectivity and groundedness in the roots needed to inspire you to take on wings. That is where brilliance comes in. These things will give you the fortitude to let the best you and everyone around you shine through.

We all have an amazing propensity to take advantage of opportunities that are in front of us in a way that positively impacts and influence ourselves. There is no single, right answer and no perfect path to get there. The extraordinary capability comes when you think about how you take that inclination and apply it to have a profound impact to making the world a better place when opportunities present themselves.

My goodness. What incredible lessons. Kim Smith, what is up next for you and Capgemini?

We’ve got a lot going on right now. I’ll just give insight to two or three things. Right now we’re working on accelerating innovation for smart homes, smart cities, smart airports, making people more connected to one another through artificial intelligence and Internet of Things in the area of digital manufacturing in aerospace, automotive, and discrete manufacturing as well as other industries with powerful partners like GE. Our immersive retail experiences and our smart digital store innovation we’ve innovated with Intel, Adobe, SAP, Microsoft, and many other partners making tremendous strides over the past few months breaking new ground for consumer engagement. And in the transportation, distribution, travel, and media & entertainment, high tech, and communications industries we have developed the latest in predictive data science to tap into intelligent analytics to define new forms of consumable products as services. A lot going on, building more innovation centers, hiring great talent and frankly having fun every day.

Kim Smith, Chief Digital Officer, Capgemini, North America We cannot thank you enough for the inspiration, insight, and profound impact that both you and Capgemini are having, not only in North America but across the planet. How can folks find out more information about Capgemini?

You can go to, and you can also feel free to follow me via LinkedIn ( & Twitter (KimSmithInov8). I would love to talk to anyone about how we can help them or just quite frankly make new connections. I’m always here to learn. Thank you so much for the time. I really appreciate it.

Thank you for the inspiration. Kim Smith, Chief Digital Officer, Capgemini. Changing the world. For more information on Capgemini, and Thank you everyone, and thank you Kim.

For more information on Ideagen and Kim Smith, visit:

Twitter: @KimSmithInov8

01/19/2017 11:17

An Exclusive Ideagen Live ‘Inside the Boardroom’ Presentation with Desney Tan

Ideagen’s Inside the Boardroom highlights the world’s leading speakers from Fortune 500 Companies, the Public Sector, and NGOs share their journey of success, life lessons, career advice, and answer your questions about how to become a successful leader. 

Desney Tan: Students and young professionals often ask: “What do I have to do to be successful?” “What do I have to do to have a good life?” It’s an amazingly important question. It’s a profound question and one that is presumably top of mind for you guys, hence your presence here. Thank you for being here. Unfortunately, my answer is often, “I don’t know”. I don’t have any answers. We don’t have any answers. No one has any answers. But, I think what we have today is even more valuable than *the* answer. What we’re going to do is share a bunch of stories, not because the stories are particularly interesting, but because the lessons we’ve learned through the course of our lives and our careers may come in handy to you guys as you embark upon your journeys. We’ve got very different stories, but you’ll see some fairly common threads in here.

Before I start I have to say two things. First of all, it’s always tempting to look at someone else’s life and say “how do I get that job?” or “how do I have that life?” My simple answer is “you can’t.” These are our jobs, these are our lives - you can’t have them. The truth of the matter is you should not want them. This is not about having our lives or our jobs. This is about creating *your* lives and *your* jobs.

The second thing I’ll say, as you look at most of our lives, is that it’s very tempting to imagine the journey as a straight line. You plot your goal, and you spend your life going after it. Life is actually a set of winding detours and off-road adventures. And, as buttoned up as many people may seem to have it, look more closely and you’ll find that we’re all winging it as we go. We’re flying by the seats of our pants, and, if you do it right, you probably will be, too.

So, with those two things... The quick background on my life. I grew up in Singapore, the elder of two kids. Dad was an architect, mom was a homemaker. We never had a lot of stuff, but they worked awfully hard to make sure we were never wanting.

I was a pretty precocious kid. Mom and dad spoke English at home and decided I had to learn Chinese. And so they stuck me in Chinese school where everything was taught in Chinese. This was fine, I did plenty well, but it wasn’t really my idea of fun. And so very early in life I became a fairly truant kid. I would sneak out of classes. I would not attend school. And so my parents, getting worried, did what any parent would do, they handed me a tennis racket and stuck me on a tennis court.

In retrospect, this was brilliant. The tennis court is the largest most legal cage you can put a kid in. And so I spent half my life growing up on the tennis court and eventually got quite good at it. By the time I was a tween I was traveling Asia, traveling the region, playing semi-pro tennis beating up on 17 and 18-year-olds. Looking back, this was a pretty key moment in my life because it is the first thing I can remember doing in which I achieved mastery. Mastery turns out to be an amazing concept and an amazing thing to strive for. As Abe Lincoln put it, “Whatever you do, whoever you are, be a good one.” As much as I hate to disagree with Abe, I often augment that with being “the best.” And don’t stop striving until you are the best, and then keep going some more.

Now, there’s a bazillion things you could choose to be a master at. I’ve had a fairly simple formula for myself. Purpose - find value either for yourself or the world around you, dream the dream (nothing is impossible). Muhammad Ali put it really nicely. He said, “Impossible is not a fact, it’s merely an opinion.” Don’t let others ideas of impossible get in the way of your dreams. You’ve got to be courageous, and foolish enough, to go after those and make them reality.”

So, moving along. The not going to school thing ended up catching up with me. By the time I was 13, my parents decided this wasn’t going so well, and they decided to send me to the U.S. to continue my education. I had an aunt and an uncle in Louisiana, and so this is where I ended up.

Stay tuned for Part II of the Exclusive Ideagen Live “Inside the Boardroom” Presentation by Desney Tan...

For more information on Ideagen and Desney Tan, visit:

Twitter: @desneytan

10/28/2016 12:31 pm ET