In the dot-com era, IBM had two big challenges: One, finding great talent (dot.coms were winning all the best Ph.D. researchers). And two, positioning itself as an Internet leader. CEO Lou Gerstner took on both challenges simultaneously with an event names Summer Jam - a worldwide jam session held concurrently in sever IBM research labs.
It paired the company's best researchers with 700 Ph.D. summer hires. The topic of the day? The future of computing in the year 2020. The centerpiece of the day was a three-hour simulation that pitted teams against each other to invent the most meaningful solution for customers in the year 2020. The teams had to aggregate technologies, seek funding from venture capitalists, pitch their ideas to customers, and rapidly evolve their solutions based on feedback.
The result? IBM increased the percentage of summer hires who signed on permanently. Each hire had a good taste of the power of IBM's labs.
What's your take-away from the case study?
This is a long excerpt from Unstuck by Keith Yamashita and Sandra Spataro, a book I highly recommend to anyone who is looking to gain direction and find meaning at work. We're not talking any more about getting back on track, as many have discussed at the time of publication.
Now it's about making a new track.
Today, Stone Yamashita Partners work with leaders to imagine and create new value. They ask important questions like, what's the value of truly seeing your market? What's the value of dedicating time to envisioning the future? I think we're there. I'm thinking that we cannot possibly try to do more of the same with less and expect different results.
We need to write the headline from the future - marketing needs a value moment.
What needs innovation (to go from stuck to meaning)?
- products and services that are underdeveloped or do not go far enough to meet true needs
- the processes that deliver those products and services to customers
- the thinking of the people who execute those processes
- the whole organization that should align behind the customer
How can the emergence of social media help marketing (if it let it)?
- by teaching marketers to observe group behavior, the social part
- by welcoming diverse and unmoderated voices to the discussion
- by allowing an early death of products that suck, thus freeing time and funds for others
- by not just talking about value, but bringing it in the conversation
This is generally the point in the conversation where people sort of look at the list and dismiss it as simplistic. It may be simple, but it's no so simple to do. IBM's ValuesJam session held a few years after that 1998 first Summer Jam led to the emergence of the company's new values:
1. Dedication to client success.
2. Innovation that matters for our company and the world.
3. Trust and personal responsibility in all our relationships.
While the statements may seem simple, they encapsulate the very terminology we so crave today. After our session at Mediabistro this past Tuesday, someone commented that it sounds like it's all about getting to know or learning what customers want and become trustworthy in our ability and willingness to provide it.
In other words, dedication, work that matters, trust and relationships rule. It doesn't stop there - it extends further into creating amazing experiences that become powerful reference points. That's where the value comes in. It's about them, not you. Yet, you do have the power to make that happen.
If only it were just about words, right? It's time for marketers to step from the world of scarcity and the false security of a blanket approach to a world of possibility. By nature, to have value, that world will be filled with good, rich questions.
One word of caution on case studies - unless your conditions are exactly the same, unless you can recreate the context, it's not going to work for you. You don't see what's under the hood and reverse-engineering doesn't work if you can't see behind that curtain. Is your lab as powerful as IBM's?
True, you could learn a thing or two by reading and studying. Don't use that as a crutch for not doing, though. The doing part is what will get you the results - your own innovation and relationships. There is plenty of opportunity for you to lead. Go ahead and write the headline from the future.
For starters you might enjoy this conversation with CB Whittemore on bridging new and old.