Tag Archives: innovation

I’m an IBMer

When I see a piece like this it reminds me why I love doing what I do. Technology can take us forward and help to improve the human condition, and I’m part of an organisation that has been helping to shape that.

As an aside, I’ve been enjoying reading Lou Gerstner’s Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance recently. Nicely written, and an eye-opening study of where the company was in the early 90s before he took over (mentioned briefly in the film).

The IBM website is going to have an ongoing series of 100 innovations updated throughout the year, too.

Here’s a longer film that is even more fascinating (remember, I’m a techie, I work for the company, and I’m an historian – nevertheless, I urge you to take a look at these videos)

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Echoes of Digital Surrey

Leafy, sunny, and sleepy Surrey… it’s a hub of digital excitement and innovation, don’t you know!

On Thursday evening I spoke at the third Digital Surrey meeting over in Guildford. The venue for all of the meetings of the group so far has been the brilliant Bench bar at the new Surrey Sports Park, and as usual it didn’t disappoint. There was a nice crowd, a little smaller than previous months (not entirely surprising due to the sunshine, holiday period, and sporting excitement), but again there were new faces and the group continues to evolve

What is Digital Surrey all about? Well, it’s not my brainchild (that award goes to the tireless @AbigailH), and it doesn’t have a mission statement as such, but if I was to describe it, I’d say that it’s a group of people interested in online and offline, mostly digital… “stuffs”… Web 2.0, publishing, creativity, new technology, communications, community… all kinds, really. It’s a very diverse crowd – from PR, marketing, journalism, web development, from startups to corporations, musicians, academics, researchers, and those into politics. Quite a fascinating group of people to explore from month to month, and the best part is, it has been growing and changing all the time. It all started last year when some wonderful people from a PR and communications company called thebluedoor, based in Farnham, started a series of irregular tweetups in the area… and it sort of snowballed from there, with the excellent folks from iBundle (home of Raffle.it, SocialSafe, etc) helping to get things off the ground with very generous and much appreciated support. You don’t have to be a Twitter user to take part, nor do you have to be from Surrey… so I sneak across the border on the occasional, uh, reconnaissance mission! :-)

So, fundamentally, it’s a great mixed up, jumbled group of people that meets once a month. Some willing volunteer gets up to say some stuff for half an hour or so somewhere in the early-to-middle section, and then discussions, chat, and networking go on into the evening. See? Surrey really is a hub of digital excitement and innovation!

My theme was essentially all around how organisations need to be more outward-looking… that by blocking off the outside world and constructing an “echo chamber”, they will stagnate and lose touch. I told the story of how I’ve been successful making myself social inside a large corporation, and then talked about how that use of social tools has extended beyond the firewall. I also said some things about how I’m beginning to thoroughly dislike the term “social media” and I don’t believe in the efforts of marketeers to manufacture “viral”, but those are probably rants for another time and place. We had some brilliant conversations about what challenges companies face in enabling their people to go down these paths and enabling a more trusting culture. There’s a brief write-up on the Digital Surrey site, along with some of the lovely tweets that people posted while I was speaking!

Sound interesting? If you want to get involved, there’s a LinkedIn group where we have ongoing discussions, and the website is in the process of being shiny-fied. Next meeting is on July 22nd and I’m assured that Chris Green will have some great thoughts to share on the importance of content. Can’t wait! :-)

[oh, and if you’re interested in meetups of this nature, I also have to put in a word for the great Thames Valley Social Media Cafe, aka #tvsmc, aka Reading / Thames Valley Tuttle, aka a nice cup of  coffee or tea and a natter about the latest happenings… it is sometimes partly populated by folks you might also meet at Digital Surrey… It’s twice a month, alternating between Reading, Farnborough, or a.n.other venue, in the daytime, also on a Thursday, under the excellent stewardship of @BenjaminEllis, @caalie and @JimAnning. Take a look!]

The Social Factor

Social matchesAround this time last year, I was asked to help some colleagues who were contributing to a book by IBM VP Maria Azua about innovation and collaboration in the workplace. In particular I spent some time reviewing a chapter by Laurisa Rodriguez, who I’d been working with for several years and had met up with along with many of the other contributors at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin a month or so earlier.

I was aware that the book was due to be published during 2009 but I’d been so busy with the day job that it had dropped off my radar. Then I noticed a couple of incoming links from others who were writing about it (and found Laurisa’s blog post about it)… and realised that it had hit the shelves. The book, The Social Factor (Amazon link), is published by IBM Press and features contributions from many of the IBMers I’ve come to know through our internal social networks and tools over the past five years. It contains perspectives which reflect many of our experiences adopting tools and techniques such as tagging, blogging, wikis and social bookmarking inside the enterprise. It also discusses something I’ve frequently referred to in my speaking engagements – IBM’s highly successful Technology Adoption Program (TAP), which Maria herself established, and which continues to drive a lot of innovations inside the organisation that feed out into software products and service offerings. There’s a good Redbook about TAP available, of course, but it’s worth reading more in chapter 10 of this book.

It’s always nice to see one’s name in print… despite being a blogger I’m not sure I’ve got an entire book to write, so this may be as much as I get… so for those interested, you’ll find a small quotation from Laurisa’s interview with me – about Twitter, of all things, imagine that! :-) – on page 105.

So, if you’re interested in the impact of social media, crowdsourcing and technology on innovation in a large enterprise, check out The Social Factor. I may be biased because I’m mentioned and several of my friends contributed to it, but I purchased my own copy, I’m making nothing from the book myself, and I believe that it is a great read!

Living in a sweet shop

IBM - apparently, like a candy store

When my friend Suzanne Minassian-Livingston described IBM as “like a candy store” at last year’s Web 2.0 Expo conference in Berlin it immediately struck a chord with me; and I’ve reused her slide (based on a Creative Commons-licensed image from a Flickr contributor) many times over the last year.

One of the things I’ve learned about the company I work for (particularly as a result of getting involved with social software, networks and communities both internally and externally) is the massive diversity the organisation has and the enormous strength that it delivers. It’s a diversity that is constantly being refreshed as new acquisitions are made and new thinking and innovation joins the existing talent pool. It’s a diversity that’s reflected not only in the global nature of the business, but also in the different areas in which the company is engaged – from hardware, software, services, methodologies, research, all kinds of cool thinking. It seems lately that almost every day I meet someone new who has something different to share with me.

Yesterday I was presenting to a customer about what IBM has been doing internally with social networks, and how we collaborate both internally and externally. That brought me back to the diversity slide – the sweet shop, the candy store. What was really cool about that was that it enabled me to tell the story of how I’d widened my network internally, and began to reach out to people across the organisation – making friends in Boston, Melbourne, Singapore, Delhi, all over the world as well as around the UK, and from all different areas of the business. One of the things that I learned as part of the briefing the IBM team delivered yesterday was about IBM’s green strategy and Project Big Green – I’d heard about it before and been excited, but I learned a lot from one of our VPs about a number of different client stories where value and environmental improvements have been delivered.

It’s just incredibly exciting. That, and that the fact that there’s always something new to learn, coupled with the rich cultural diversity and the enormous amount of trust that I feel that the organisation places in its employees, is really what makes it such an enjoyable place to work, and that I believe makes it a really strong organisation.

On being part of a tribal movement

Looking back over the past few years, I find that I’ve somehow become part of a tribe: eightbar.

What is eightbar, again?

We’re a group of techie/creative people working in and around IBM’s Hursley Park Lab in the UK. We have regular technical community meetings, well more like a cup of tea and a chat really, about all kinds of cool stuff. One of the things we talked about is that although there are lots of cool people and projects going on in Hursley, we never really let anyone know about them. So, we decided to try and record some of the stuff that goes on here in an unofficial blog, EightBar.

This hasn’t been part of “a grand plan”. All that happened was that before I was even “officially” a “Hursley person”, I got to know a bunch of people with whom I share attitudes and interests, and started to explore some new spaces with them – virtual worlds like Second Life, enterprise social computing, bleeding edge technologies, collaboration that extends outside of enterprise, geographic and social boundaries.

I am very fortunate to become good friends with some inspiring people such as Ian Hughes (epredator), Roo Reynolds, Rob Smart, Darren Shaw and Andy Stanford-Clark – among many, many others – and found myself being asked to talk about some of these new areas with IBM customers and other groups. Without even realising it, I started to be viewed as an authority on many of these topics. I’m immensely grateful that people like Ian and Roo recognised my passion to communicate and gave me these opportunities to break out of my day-to-day role.

Ian has a great presentation and a blog post on how all of this has come about, by the way.

I’ve been standing on the shoulders of giants for the past couple of years and I completely recognise that. It’s awesome that this little group, loose band, motley assortment, whatever we are – this body of interested techies and thinkers has been identified by top analyst James Governor as his Team of the Year.

This idea of grassroots movements at work is summed up in a great soundbite from the Don Tapscott interview with Net@Night this past week (listen out for this one, about 41 minutes into the discussion)

… social networks are the new operating systems of business…

He’s so very, very right. I owe my successes in the past 2-3 years to my social networks – and to eightbar.

(this is Captain Slow, signing off…)