Berlin presentation: The experiment is over (now it’s time to get real value out of social media)

While I don’t have too much time to recap the presentation in Berlin, I did want to share the slides here below. There are three distinct parts of the presentation, which, without context probably feel quite disjointed. So please read below for a little bit of context.

In short, here’s the main point: too often social media is taken on as a stand alone experiment devoid of a proper value statement and not rooted in the business model or organizational mission. And just as I said in a prior presentation that social media in conflict with corporate culture is doomed to failure, so too is any social media project without regard to what business you are actually in.

Which is why I think we are at a point where experimentation for the sake of experimentation is over. Given the economic conditions in which we find ourselves, any project proposed without absolutely clear value attached to it is not only unlikely to get off the ground, but also irresponsible for us as employees to even propose. Hence, the experiment is over.

Now, that said, I firmly believe social media that DOES have an articulated, well grounded value objective has a lot of opportunity. There is an appetite for doing things differently. But work needs to be done to show how it will advance the business’ or organization’s core mission.

Which leads me to the center of the presentation, which is focused on an IBM case study. More than two years ago we embarked on a massive crowdsourcing experiment called InnovationJam. (at the time, it was the third such “Jam” we’d done).  The intent was to address a problem we’d been having of bringing to market some of the great technologies our researchers work on in the labs. Basically, how do we find practical business application for the great R&D work in the labs.

InnovationJam2006 copy

So, with that in mind, we opened up a 72-hour online brainstorm to all employees, clients, business partners, academics and even employee family members to explore possible applications for the research projects being worked on in our labs. I’ll spare the details, but 150,000 participants and 46,000 ideas later, we arrived on 10 unique business ideas. Around those business ideas we created mini business units, each funded at $10 million. (see slides 12-15 for details).

The result of that exercise has been pretty dramatic. If you follow IBM at all (and even if you don’t) you’ve probably heard about our Smarter Planet agenda (see more about that on the Smarter Planet blog and on ibm.com). The gist is, the major systems that make the world work – financial, health, food, traffic, energy, etc. – are all largely broken and in need of being fixed. And the solutions to those problems have a big technology underpinning.

What does this have to do with Smarter Planet? Well, take a look at slide #15. The ideas that came out of InnovationJam 2006 form the core of Smarter Planet. In short, without InnovationJam, I’m not sure we’d have Smarter Planet. And Smarter Planet is IBM’s overall corporate strategy. Pretty impressive proof point to the potential value of Social Media. But, going back to my original premise, it was rooted in a core problem we had, with a value statement at the back end.

Now, the third part of the presentation is on Smart Cities, which is very exciting, and following the presentation elicited some very pointed, but useful questions and conversations. But I’ll share more of that later on the Smarter Planet blog.


6 Comments on “Berlin presentation: The experiment is over (now it’s time to get real value out of social media)”

  1. [...] check out this blog post from my good friend (And fellow IBMer) Adam Christensen under the title: Berlin presentation: The experiment is over (now it’s time to get real value out of social media). It’s a deck he just used this week to go and present in Berlin at the fine and always [...]

  2. Some great food for thought here. I will now surely be blogging about this topic next week.

    - Bilal

  3. What is now well understood is social media for consumers. Leaders on this front are the well branded properties such as facebook and LinkedIn. What requires more research and experimentation is how the enterprise can get value out of social media. That’s not going to happen if all you got is the usual k-means based recommendation engine.

    We are stilling doing plenty of research with Cogenuity which is currently a challenge based collective intelligence platform. What we have done is deep integration with social media as it is understood today. What still lies before us is better engagement and participation of groups for solving enterprise problems in a way that maintains the integrity of their IP.

  4. [...] About me… ← Berlin presentation: The experiment is over (now it’s time to get real value out of social&nbs… [...]

  5. [...] Computing experiences overall. While you can glean quite a bit about those topics by perusing some prior posts I’ve written and presentations I’ve given on related topics, unfortunately, I just [...]

  6. I agree with everything you posted in this entry, I’m a loyal reader so please keep updating so often!


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