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Five years ago, a team made up of scientists from IBM, several universities and two US national laboratories embarked on a great quest: to design a computer chip inspired by the function, low-power, and compact size of the human brain. In the face of tremendous technical unknowns, our goal is now within reach.This was no easy journey. As the principal investigator, I had to coordinate the activities of scientists with a wide variety of skills and expertise, both within IBM and at the other organizations that collaborated with us. We had to achieve a series of significant scientific breakthroughs in a virtually uncharted territory under the constraints of a relatively short deadline and limited funds.
The experience has taught me valuable management lessons that could be useful to others. In the coming years, it seems likely that organizations of all kinds will more frequently collaborate with one another, that research and other aspects of business will globalize even more, and that new paths to innovation will require people with a wide variety of disciplines to work together to combat uncertainty while harnessing potential. Over the weekend, the New York Times published a guest essay by me in its Preoccupations column.