Technology can unlock so many opportunities for media companies. But keeping up with changing technology, and capturing the value that it brings, can be challenging.

Ann Hintzman

That’s what Ann Hintzman, senior director and practice lead, Central/East Salesforce Ignite team, will talk about in her keynote speech at the Elevate! conference in Chicago in a few weeks.

We caught up with Hintzman to learn more about her role at Salesforce and how they have been able to use technology to drive their business:

First, tell us a little about your background.

Like many people in innovation, I have a non-linear path that bounces around business, people and technology. I studied cognitive science with a focus in computer science at Wellesley College. By building a robot that could put out a fire but struggled to navigate a hallway, I gained a personal appreciation of where code and reality can clash.

I then spent six years as a securities analyst focused on high yield and distressed debt. I enjoyed the detective work and pattern matching but missed solving things, so went back to school to learn about design as a problem-solving tool at IIT’s Institute of Design.

I have been working in innovation consulting since then — first at Gravitytank, then through acquisition at Salesforce. What I love about this work is it’s all about navigating the messiness of reality (people, organizations) to find paths to new value.

Can you tell us about your role at Salesforce?

I work in the Office of Innovation on a team called Ignite. Our team partners with Salesforce’s most ambitious customers to build their transformation visions.

Ignite’s researchers, strategists and designers work with Salesforce technologists and our customers’ business leaders to define how our customers grow value for their customers (and their business) and what they need to do to get there. On the Ignite team, I lead our Central-East team of talented researchers, strategists, and designers, which mostly entails staying out of their way so they can do awesome work.

Technology can offer lots of new value. But what are some ways that you have seen companies capture the new value it offers?

The most inspiring story I read recently in Harvard Business Review was about how Haier, an appliance company, changed the way they organize their company to drive sustained growth. It had the tantalizing headline of “The End of Bureaucracy.” None of the org changes would have been possible without rapid market feedback and flexible teaming powered by technology that lets them gather data, turn it into insight and activate teams.

At Salesforce, I look at the impact our technology has on the economy through job creation. According to IDC, Salesforce and its ecosystem of partners and customers will generate 3.3 million new jobs and $859 billion in new GDP impact worldwide by 2022. It’s not only that these are jobs in technology, but we created a learning platform, Trailhead, so anyone can learn the skills to get a new job. I feel tremendous pride in how we leveraged our technology to drive company value, global economic value, and paths for people to be part of that value creation.

How can companies keep up with changes in technology?

Lean on your partners (shameless plug for Dreamforce) and pick a few aggregators/thought leaders to follow (I like Ben Evans, TechCrunch, Launchticker). For most of us, though, we have plenty of access to what is changing. The unlock isn’t finding the next best source of information, rather listening differently.

People tend to look for ways that information reinforces our world view. That’s just how our brains handle complexity. This human tendency can create a blind spot to the impact new technology can have on what your customers value and ultimately how your business needs to run.

There are a couple of ways to fight our brain’s tendencies. First, try to see and experience new technology yourself. The more real something is to you, the easier it is to apply it. Second, a simple thing to do when you learn of new technology is to ask yourself, “What else could it do?” I know this seems eye-rollingly straightforward, but for most of us, the pace of work values fast decisions and answers. Simply asking yourself this question can push you out a reactive mindset into the generative mindset needed to notice a disruptive change.

What are things Salesforce has been doing to keep its arms around new technologies through the Office on Innovation?

Since we are surrounded by new technology and thought leadership from our product teams, what we need to do is stay close to our customers to understand how new technology is relevant and valuable to them.

We have customer advisory boards, host events and partner through work like our Ignite programs to make sure we understand the future, the current reality and how to get there.

Click here to register for Elevate!