IBM innovates through social networking thinktank

2 May 2007

Social networking technology can be the driving force for innovation within an organisation, claimed a leading IBM executive this morning, citing IBM’s own ThinkPlace as a prime example.

Paul Baffes, program director of innovation projects for IBM, was speaking at the IBM Innovation and Globalisation Briefing.

ThinkPlace is like a 24×7 internal chat room where IBM hosts a global idea marketplace. Executives post challenges to request solutions and validation.

Any IBM employee can volunteer to work on any idea and if the idea gets picked up they receive an award.

Baffes said that some ideas just “sit there and rot, but this also happens on the marketplace”.

He called it a space where all employees, regardless of title or position, can log on and throw their hat into the virtual ring.

Unlike the usual social networking site, ThinkPlace has a network of what are called catalysts. Over 600 people working as idea matchmakers, matching up the originator of the idea to those in senior management with funding and resources.

The IBM employees who participate in this online ideas portal do so voluntarily but, according to Baffes, are more than willing to do so. He claimed it has been found to increase their overall productivity in the workplace.

He gave examples of some Irish ideas that were recognised through ThinkPlace, such as a solution to reading complicated database queries into enterprise software for use in a Windows environment.

He said the Irish operation was suited very well to this type of open, collaborative environment due to its integrated supply chain that means many different resources are in close proximity.

Jim O’Keefe, communications officer, IBM Ireland, added that IBM Ireland was ideal for this ideas pipeline model because it is “like a microcosm of the IBM industry”.

By Marie Boran