When you’re a company like IBM with the goal of changing the world, there are certain characteristics you have in terms of the ways in which everybody thinks, creates and works together.
And today, on this last day of IBM’s first century, tens of thousands of IBMers, retirees and partners are participating in a range of meaningful service projects in communities around the world.
This “Celebration of Service” builds on a tradition of volunteerism that is as old as the company itself, along with IBM’s flagship program for empowering volunteers — called On Demand Community. At any given time, there may be as many as 160,000 IBMers involved in community service efforts all over the map, sharing the same expertise and talent they provide to business clients to their schools and not-for-profits.
This is just one of several 100 Icons of Progress that show IBM’s collective brainpower at work — and how collaboration happens broadly and deeply.
Over the years, IBMers have built collaborate partnerships both intimate and vast in scope — from shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration with neighbors and communities, to Net-based breakthroughs that reach out to millions, leveraging the “wisdom of crowds” on a global scale.
One example is World Community Grid, which is powered by a tremendous — and growing — volunteer force of more than half a million people in 80 countries around the world. These individuals have collectively donated the idle processing power of more than one million computers to create a “virtual supercomputer” to help researchers understand childhood cancer, HIV/AIDS, muscular dystrophy, clean energy and more.
The very conditions and capabilities that are making our planet smarter are opening up new paths to action and engagement – not just for companies and countries, but for the individuals and communities in them. A case in point is IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, which has taken what’s at the heart of IBM’s Smarter Planet strategy and enabled groups of highly talented employees from a range of countries to volunteer their time and travel to emerging markets to help improve economic development, government services, and stimulate job growth.
IBMers know that its not just innovative services that improve the quality of life in these communities, it’s how long you engage, and how long you stick around. They also thrive in an environment where they have to search for global answers to global challenges and are free to take informed risks and champion breakthrough ideas.
That is the thinking behind the IBM online collaboration “jams.” Like a jazz improvisation jam session from which it got its name, the IBM jam is designed to connect people who might otherwise never meet, and make it easy for them to build on each other’s thoughts and, most importantly, speed up the launch of new technologies and develop novel ways of bringing them to market.
This is the age of the social network, and a big part of IBM’s cultural shift and strategy in recent years has been to lower the decision-making center of gravity and give a voice to IBMers all over the world.
In 2006, IBM broke new ground — opening its jams for the first time to the most interesting and adventurous clients, business partners and academic colleagues from around the world for the largest on-line brainstorm session ever held.
The dialog was free-flowing and candid. Conversations continued 24 hours a day. And when it was over, thousands of creative and far-reaching ideas had been offered up.
As these and other “Icons” from IBM’s first 100 years illustrate, the most innovative ideas can come from the most unexpected places: the quiet genius inside the organization; the collective genius around the organization. And they serve as powerful examples of how philanthropic diversity, employee collaboration, and the wisdom of crowds can make a big difference far and wide.