HR Tech Interview with Lauren Kelly, CMO at ThoughtExchange

Hi Lauren, please tell us about your current role and how you arrived at ThoughtExchange.

I’m the Chief Marketing Officer at ThoughtExchange, an Enterprise Discussion Management platform that helps leaders source answers to open-ended questions in real time. It’s a simple concept with powerful impact. ThoughtExchange’s technology enables better insights and solutions to be surfaced across diverse groups — in a fraction of the time when compared to traditional discussions. The platform merges collective intelligence, AI and patented anti-bias technology to help teams increase speed to value. My role focuses on channeling the voice of our current and future customers. My team and I work to understand the problems our customers face and bring better solutions to market. We’re in a constant state of innovation asking ourselves how we can improve our product even before customers come to us.

In the past year we’ve seen companies place a greater importance on the alignment of teams around critical business priorities. Companies have untapped potential to unlock better collective insights that help solve problems and improve company decision-making. After nearly a year of work-from-home, it was clear to me that we need significantly better tools to maximize the potential of people and teams. ThoughtExchange solves for the challenges many leaders are experiencing today. These include conversing with teams in an increasingly digital and remote world and having better discussions at scale in order to align teams more quickly. Every leader, whether you have a team of 10 or 10,000, needs ThoughtExchange in order to gather honest, diverse thoughts and create better alignment across every corner of their business.

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Tell us about the various milestones you gathered in your marketing career and how it would help you in your current role?

My career has been fairly split between corporate strategy and strategic marketing including working with a number of sales organizations. I’ve developed an appreciation for the importance of setting and aligning a company strategy and how that direction impacts each part of a company’s operations. As the Senior Director of Strategy at PepsiCo, I spearheaded the company’s food and snack strategy on behalf of the CEO and also focused on the growth and expansion of the $20B division. That included some big brands like Pepsi, Frito Lay and Quaker Foods and Snacks.

During my time as the Global Executive Director of Strategy & Corporate Development at Dell, I oversaw the global strategy for the company’s 25,000+ person go-to-market organization. I also was responsible for commercializing a $57B technology solutions portfolio. Before transitioning to my current role at ThoughtExchange, I transformed the marketing platform at Irvine Company through my work as SVP and CMO of the Office Portfolio to meet the evolving hybrid workplace needs of millennials.

After two decades of revenue roles across four large enterprises, I’ve observed a pattern among great leaders. They draw out unique insights from everyone on the team. But as organizations scale and people become more distributed, leaders increasingly need a scalable tool to hear from every team member, build trust among employees and make smart, data-driven decisions for the business. If this past year taught us anything, it’s that 2020 has been an important inflection point where technology and circumstance can bring something exponentially better to business.

What is ThoughtExchange and what are your various services / solutions?

ThoughtExchange is an Enterprise Discussion Management platform powered by anti-bias technology. Put simply, we help current and future executive leaders obtain deeper insights from their organization that unlock impactful solutions. Our platform allows leaders to increase alignment among their company, improve performance among their teams, and overall drive better results for their business. When using our cloud-based SaaS platform, respondents answer open-ended questions candidly. Our dynamic analytics make it simple for leaders to gauge needs and priorities so they can make more informed plans and stickier decisions.

How is the current pandemic era shaping up for the workplace collaboration landscape? What major changes do you expect to happen once companies move past the WFH technology?

From this point on, our experiences most likely won’t resemble those of pre-pandemic times. What we’ve experienced this past year will shape how we create value and work with one another more efficiently in the future. What’s certain is that this past year of working primarily from home has accelerated the adoption of technology and how we work with teams. We must now ask ourselves how we can help companies reach their maximum potential and create higher performing teams.

Additionally, we know that the future of work isn’t simply going to be remote, it’s going to be mostly distributed. We not only need technology that helps us communicate, but tools and resources that help groups create real value together. ThoughtExchange’s platform is an important innovation that allows teams to transcend location, time and even communication modality to have meaningful and engaging discussions.

The ability to not rely on 20th century communication tools and think expansively about how you can promote an exchange of thinking will be a challenge that leaders will need to address. It’s about empowering executives to challenge their traditional business practices and determine where exponential improvements can be made. I think leaders are going to be searching for these answers, especially those in organizations that remain partially remote.

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Could you tell us how you help customers unlock growth and boost company performance?

Our tool enables leaders to facilitate, guide and deliver better value from the discussions they’re having within their organizations. A lot of tech can leverage AI to make sense of unstructured data from conversations and help extract information. At ThoughtExchange, we approach the problem differently. We set discussions up that allow leaders to easily facilitate conversations using our patented technology. Leaders are able to elevate the best thinking, easily and quickly. They can translate collected insights to make better business decisions, develop better strategies, and overall boost business performance as a result of these actions.

Your predictions on the future of Marketing automation in the era of AI ML / Robotics?

Artificial intelligence will continue to improve but will never fully replace certain nuanced creative thinking that comes from human intelligence. I believe we’ll see an increase in technology offerings that maximize the natural potential of human ingenuity. By analyzing and uncovering patterns found in unstructured data sets, we can unlock valuable insights that empower us to transform our traditional ways of thinking. This will be a critical task as our world becomes more distributed and we look for ways to foster more connection among one another.

Tell us more about your remote workplace and marketing comms stack. How have they become a part of your company’s culture?

ThoughtExchange has always had a distributed workforce, so this was actually (and fortunately) not a new transition for us. Our platform is the core way in which our teams build and grow the business and it also helps us feel connected. It provides us with a deeper understanding of the perspectives of others and helps us facilitate a more agile and productive cadence. This has unlocked time for team members to work on a wider range of initiatives. We also use our own platform as a record of discussion insights.

As I previously mentioned, we realized that some of the most valuable insights are trapped inside the heads of leaders and the heads of employees. Our platform allows leaders to tap into employees’ minds everyday fostering a culture of engagement and participation. Plus, we are always putting talent first over geographic location. I’m proud to work at a company that supports a “live where you want, work where you want” mentality.

Advice to every young female marketing professional 

Be incredibly intentional and thoughtful about the unique value that you bring to any organization. The more you understand where you can stimulate actionable change and deliver innovative insights, the better you will be able to apply your strengths and create a meaningful  impact within an organization. Often we rely on others to tell us what we should do next with our career. The more you can be proactive for your career and not model it after others, you will develop a stronger sense of self-advocacy. In the end, nobody cares more about your career than you do.

In this past year parents have faced enormous challenges during this pandemic including helping their kids adapt to remote learning, and some like myself balancing a full time job as well. The myriad of logistical, physical and intellectual challenges that accompany these obstacles have left us feeling incredibly stretched. My advice to working moms in any industry is to hold tight to that passion for what you do. There is no greater feeling than being able to set a powerful example for your kids that you can turn your passion into a meaningful career while also being as present as you can for them.

Also Read: TecHRseries Interview with Andrew Perkins, Global Director, Kaplan Performance Academy

Thank you, Lauren! That was fun and we hope to see you back on TecHR Series soon.

Lauren Kelly is a CMO at ThoughtExchange

Bring people together. Thoughtexchange lets you lead challenging conversations about things that matter.

Using Thoughtexchange, you can quickly and easily connect with your team to solve problems together. The Thoughtexchange app lets you ask an open-ended question and invite groups of 10 or 10,000 people to answer it in what’s called an “exchange.” Not only do people submit their own answers, they also get to rate other participants’ answers, so the most popular ideas rise to the top. It’s all done anonymously, so there’s a level playing field, and it also has live capabilities so you can easily crowdsource in a meeting or during a presentation. We’ve built in real-time data analytics tools like AI theming and heat maps so you can see how people interact with each others’ ideas.

AICollective Intelligencedata analyticsDiscussion Managementonline engagement softwareSAASThoughtexchangeworkplace collaboration
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