Explaining quantum mechanics using coffee and finding innovation insights in dumbwaiters for smart elevator design: tips on creativity from IBM Global Product LeaderFeatured

I spoke with Anamita Guha, global lead of product management at IBM Quantum, where she boldly integrates product management with go-to-market and growth disciplines to create new and diverse markets, scales and manages high-performing global teams, and builds inclusive communities. Anamita originally joined IBM on the founding team and as the lead product manager for IBM Watson’s Developer Labs and AR/VR Labs. Prior to IBM, Anamita spent most of her career at early to mid-stage startups, including launching and selling her own company in 2014. She holds a degree in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley, studied journalism at NYU, and received her MBA from the Quantic School of Business and Technology. Anamita is also a fellow at On Deck. I was especially keen to speak with Anamita given her experience leading global remote teams, her highly interdisciplinary experience prior to and within IBM, her ability to communicate complex technical concepts to a diverse audience, and the immense level of innovation involved in her work. In our conversation, Anamita shared her advice on enhancing creativity, drawing non-intuitive connections, leading global teams, and increasing the accessibility of research driven content. Engage in visual mind mapping exercises to hone your ability to draw non-intuitive connections. Creativity often comes from making non-obvious connections between fields and experiences. To enhance your creative ability, actively exercise your connection drawing muscle.Anamita recommends practicing mind mapping. By placing a topic of interest at the center of a drawing board, and continuously connecting it with associated words can help trigger these non-intuitive connections. Don’t think bedroom and avocados are related? Anamita challenges you to think differently (bedroom > alarm clock > morning > breakfast > avocados). Another option is to explore on Wikipedia, click on one page and see what else it is hyperlinked to. Deliberately carve out time to slow down and be intentional. Research shows that when you stare at art for 3 hours, you start to see the art in new ways, which underscores the importance and value of deep, extended reflection. In our daily lives, we can often be so rushed in getting things done as quickly as possible. Anamita carves out an hour each day to fully focus on intentional thinking. Even when you are occupied or on the go (cooking or walking, for example), set out to harness that otherwise more mindless time to do active thinking. Be constantly curious and ask tons of questions. When you get a cup of coffee at a cafe, think about how that seemingly insignificant cup of coffee is connected to so much: from the person who made it, to the machine, to the farmers who grew the beans, to the milk and sugar you put into it, to the table you rest it on. Everything is truly connected and with a curious mind, you can become more sensitive to and aware of these fascinating connections. When Anamita was on a trip recently, she stayed in a home with dumbwaiters. She had never before seen one so was incredibly curious and asked the host 15 minutes of questions about this “new” innovation Around this time, at work, she was working on a patent involving IoT and elevators. Based on her question, Anamita leveraged some of her newfound knowledge about dumbwaiters to her elevator innovation. Build the psychological safety of everyone on your team. Notice non-obvious identities beyond gender and ethnicity (such as holidays people celebrate, the education they have, the family they live with and take care of, the personal challenges they may be facing) and understand the intersectionality between the many facets of everyone’s identities. Encourage team members to share non-work stories with everyone through a dedicated show and tell session. Have 1 team meeting a week solely centered around feedback and critique. People can come with questions or practice presentations. Create a Slack culture where people feel comfortable and encouraged to share more about their life outside of work. Anamita believes individuals do their best work when they bring their full selves to work. Follow the grandma boss rule. When crafting your message, Anamita encourages others to understand what people care about and tie your message to that focal point. For example, when Anamita is explaining quantum computing to a non-technical audience, she starts by asking if they drink coffee. She then shares that scientists have never been able to simulate the caffeine molecule and explains why using the principles of quantum computing. The grandma boss rule: explain it in a way that both your boss and your grandma will understand and be excited about it. Focus on the emotion you wish to evoke. Instead of simply focusing on the “what,” focus more on the “so what” by understanding what fundamentally drives people and communicating your message in a way that creates meaningful emotions. Long after people forget the technical details of a particular message, they will still remember how it made them feel. Step back from the grindstone and focus on teaching others. As you graduate from “doing” to “leading,” improve on your coaching abilities. Teach and empower others to rise up and later become coaches themselves. Read, speak, and connect with different people to ensure you are developing an impactful leadership strategy for people of all backgrounds. Prioritize balance. Before you can help your team members, you must help yourself. Find balance and prioritize your own mental and physical well being. By doing so, you not only become a more effective leader but also set a great example for your team. To connect with Anamita and stay updated on her work, you can follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or other channels here:
@sandramedina you might find this interesting!
@iynna and @sandramedina, I came here to say the same thing! I bet Sandra would like this.
Thank you both for thinking of me, this is awesome! :)Some of my personal favorite takeaways:"When you get a cup of coffee at a cafe, think about how that seemingly insignificant cup of coffee is connected to so much...Everything is truly connected""...understand the intersectionality between the many facets of everyone’s identities...Anamita believes individuals do their best work when they bring their full selves to work.""Long after people forget the technical details of a particular message, they will still remember how it made them feel."
Some of my favorites quotes as well :)
Loved this!
Thank you for the read!
Yes! The grandma boss rule is a great term to remember how to simplify complex concepts - I've been trying to reinforce this with my team this week :)
Love that!