Monday, 21 March 2011

Big Blue

When I first started in consultancy, one of the books that inspired many business people was 'In Search of Excellence' by Peters and Waterman.

IBM was featured as one of the successful companies and held up as a great example. Big Blue along with others in the book then declined, whilst the fortunes of Microsoft rose.

Critics sneered at the 8 themes parodying the book as 'In Search of Stupidity'.

I noticed that business people liked the simple, memorable formulations and clear descriptions of how best to proceed. They were more likely to apply the 8 practical themes than more sophisticated academic theories.

In the years that followed I also met IT professionals who worked for IBM. Some described themselves as cube dwellers in the style of Dilbert.

Others told me something fascinating. IBM dealt with the disruptive innovation caused by personal desktop computers and faded from view. The company continued to operate, but in a different way. I learnt of a web like network of small companies that fed into the mycelium of IBM, enabling Big Blue to tackle new frontiers with the power of the giant and the agility of Jack and the beanstalk.

Henry Chesbrough uses IBM as one of his example of Open Innovation.

That'll surprise the people jeering from the peanut gallery, but not me.

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