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Why Is IBM One of The World's Most Innovative Companies?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on May 10, 2007

Well, according to the BW/BCG survey of top managers around the world, it is not about servers. It’s about patents, R&D, adaptability, and innovation culture.

Check out the first 50 responses on IBM:

“Constant pursuit of new ideas / patents

Significant research on technology and services

They create key advances across a number of technologies.

I know the products

products and services on the cutting edge

Very strong R & D

lonfgstanding tradition

Blue sphere and Blade Server products

Focus on innovation

extremely innovative organizational and sales models to leverage technology, partners/channels and position for technology usage and delivery trends

Tech is constantly changing

great hardware

Business Adoptability

The largest number of patents per year and permanent innovations and inventions.

ability to shift their positioning to be more relevant

Strategic changes made

Products they create

Excel in business technology services

I think they have a long history of innovation

Great outsourcing Srategy

Most new ideas and patents on a consistant basis

Historical developments as well as the breadth of intellectual talent(chips, computing, internet, artificial intelligence)

number of patents year after year

Because of the Technology

Long History

cell processor

Commitment to (1) fundamental physical research, (2) develop technology to meet society’s needs and (3) help users develop the processes and platforms to use new technology

They are making continuous break throughs on a number of techical fronts while reshaping their business model.

Excellent product range of laptops, customizable to fit every requirement and no compromise of quality.

They have more patents each year and their R&D is rated number one in the world.

Research & produce the most advance chip

highest number of patents — highly innovative gauged by intellectual property over very long period of time

Plenty of R&D research always leading edge technologies


great R&D and knows how to commercialize the innovations

Deep technology investments producing many original ideas

Their consulting company is doing a great job of helping others find value

Extensive corporate infrastructure to provide seed money, senior leader expertise/support, and tollgated oversight of high-priority emerging opportunities.

Applying ideas to solve new problems in left field ways, while at the same time extending existing technology to new solutions

Growth over longer periods with future potential

Strong patent portfolio in basic research

reinvention from computers to service

excellent longterm business ideas

Legendary; Consistently reinvent themselves to add value; Offer blend of services and products; Outstanding leadership

Giant but still smart

They produce more patents than nearly everyone else.

number of patents

Amazing range of patents and IPR’s

Same as above

Strength of technologists and customer solutions
patent filings”

Reader Comments

steve baker

May 11, 2007 8:46 PM

The company is teeming with foreigners too, which I think helps. I was in the Watson research center last summer when the world cup was going on. The lunch room looked like cheering gallery from the U.N.


May 12, 2007 1:18 PM

Bruce - been enjoying your blog for a bit now and particular these extending comments on various companies. A key question though - does innovation count if it doesn't turn into successful products that lead to sustained marketplace impact. Clearly invention & innovation are not 1-time magic events but are key, on-going processes that need to be built into every company. That said and the implied acid test taken I'll agree that IBM is tecnically innovative but argue that, despite all the technical contributions, they've failed to turn them into major new markets.

In fact I'd further argue that they've succeeded in treading water in the deep technical bottom of the IT stack but have failed to bridge the gap into more closely integrating business and technology. Despite having id'd that as the recurrent next frontier of revenue growth. Back in '94 Lou Gerstner defined "Industry Solutions" as the next wave of IBM strategic innovation yet was forced by cultural barriers to shut it down in '99. IBM's last big push was "On-Demand" which turned out to be harder, more difficult and expensive than imagined. Especially when one moved from the bottom of the stack (servers) to middleware and system management (infrastructure) to the top (applications, integration and business alignment).

Instead of attacking the space desperately crying for innovation they've backed away because of the risks, the expense and the cultural incompatibilities. And instead taken their immense free-cash-flow and put it into buybacks while cutting the people their long-term health depends on and loosing the confidence of their customers. And, oh yeah, re-leveraging their balance sheet to sustain buybacks and dividends.

To the extent you believe all that the question would seem to be, and this is all independently verifiable, that IBM is truly innovative in a narrow domain but not INNOVATIVE where it truly counts. Now which path in the long-run will be the most risk-reducing, profitable and sustainable ?

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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