Friday saw the fantastic people over at CMS hosting their yearly international technology and media conference.

There were many conclusions that could be drawn from the excellent speakers on the agenda but the common theme I saw was how success in innovation comes from people and culture.

The importance of people in the innovation process was more pronounced when the technology was more advanced and innovation more dramatic.

Craig Dawson (Head of Europe, IBM Watson) spoke about innovations using Watson's impressive capability across a number of industries. I had thought a world-leading AI discussion would focus on the reduction of workload and cost saving. The largest part of Craig's discussion addressed the importance of finding the right innovation partners for Watson and the efforts made by both IBM and their clients to ensure the success of their project. Some projects even have as high as a 50:50 split in IBM to client staff on the deployment teams. People are at the core of ensuring Watson is successful.

There is often a perception that people are a barrier to innovation. Culture can be seen as a blocker to innovative technology with established practice setting the standard for what is possible. For IBM it would appear that organising the right people in the right way is the pathway to success.

Deborah Sherry (Senior Vice President, Chief Commercial Officer, GE Digital Europe) had an insightful take on the role of technology in innovation during her discussion on GE's move toward a more digital focus. GE's approach is to treat technology as a base for change, creating a platform that internal teams can use to drive improvement. This technology base then offers its benefits to the staff and internal leaders brave enough to adopt it.

The leadership from GE embraced this transition to digital and drew inspiration from startup culture on how to implement a lean, fast culture in their teams adopting the new technology. This has helped them remain at the cutting edge of the multitude of industries in which they operate.

Overall the CMS conference was excellent, it is remiss to mention only these two speakers here. I do feel like their messages are relevant for many leaders today looking to innovate through technology.