Not a day goes by where Stephen Miller isn’t trying to make a difference in someone’s life. As a Lenovo brand ambassador, he helps customers better understand how technology can help their businesses grow. Miller didn’t set out to become a difference maker, but neither do most people. Fortunately, anyone can become one, he says. We spoke to Miller about what difference makers have in common and how technology can help empower employees to affect change.
How do you define the term difference maker?
It’s a person who likes to strive and create. It can be a CEO or business owner, but it doesn’t have to be--it can be someone on a team, or a family member, or someone in a community who takes the bull by the horn and looks for answers. They all have that can-do attitude in common, an entrepreneurial spirit. Even in our company, with 50,000 people, it feels very entrepreneurial. You have to see the sunny side of life, the glass half-full opportunity.
How can companies foster difference making inside their business?
Allow individuals to separate themselves. They need to be able to look for opportunities to do a better job or make a situation better. Maybe you’re working in a steel mill. You can’t improve the steel--it’s a commoditized business--but maybe you can make the work environment better. It’s about empowerment, giving autonomy to allow growth. You need an environment that allows people to take responsibility which will give them a chance to do more.
How can you tell if you are a difference maker?
It’s when people see you as a resource, or you see someone else’s situation has gotten better. Or when you look around you and you’ve met your goals. Most difference makers don’t seek attention for their success--they just look around and say we did it and it wasn’t easy.
Do you consider yourself a difference maker?
I do, but it snuck up on me. I found a way to speak about technology and be involved with customers in their buying decisions. I like those relationships and making people see how technology can make their life better, or that PCs and phones don’t have to be boring. You don’t start by saying, “I’m going to be a difference maker.”
Can technology help people make a difference?
Technology should make things faster and easier. A few years ago we created a product that became the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. We wanted to make a notebook that folded and flipped around in a different way. We thought about how we could make a notebook better, faster, and stronger. Technology should empower people to make a difference. We’ve been doing a lot of work in school systems, providing ThinkStations to STEM labs. Its purpose was to build technology so it can do its job faster than a regular computer. That makes for a better learning experience, which then enables people to make a difference.
What can a company do if it wants to create a difference-making culture?
It has to start top down. Either a CEO or a business owner has to be a difference maker in their organization and realize that they have smarter minds below them.
Has Lenovo always had this kind of culture?
We’re a customer driven and customer experience-focused company, but at first we were an engineering company that published patents. We changed once we realized why we were creating these patents and that there had to be purposeful innovation. It might seem weird, but there has to be a theme and a goal behind it. It’s like a plant filled with potential, where leadership has to have enough trust to recognize that while the field looks like it’s only dirt, they know there are seeds there and they need to give it time to grow. A business leader needs to say, here’s the tech, here’s the opportunity; trust us. The difference makers will find a way.
Visit Difference Makers to read more stories of leadership, vision, and technology driving rapid growth and disruption.