IBM's Palmisano Credits 'Culture' for Big Blue's Success

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-06-17 Print this article Print

title=IBM's 'Wild Ducks'}

IBM also debuted its "Wild Ducks" film, a tribute to IBM clients who have defied conventional wisdom through new approaches to building their businesses. They include Howard Shapiro, chief scientist at the Mars Corp., and Sunil Mittal, founder and CEO of Bharti Enterprises, the largest telecom company in India. "Wild Ducks" was directed by Davis Guggenheim, an Oscar winner for the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." The new film follows two other IBM Centennial films this year: "100 x 100" - a fast-paced, year-by-year chronicle of IBM's history, and "They Were There," which explores significant moments in IBM history told through first-person accounts by key innovators, including the invention of the UPC code, helping to put a man on the moon and developing the personal computer.

Thomas J. Watson Jr. introduced the concept of wild ducks at IBM in 1959. Watson is quoted as saying: "We are convinced that any business needs wild ducks, and in IBM we try not to tame them... You can make wild ducks tame, but you can never make tame ducks wild again."

John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president and director of IBM Research, said he has 3,000 wild ducks all over the world, referring to IBM researchers, who are encouraged to think out of the box. Kelly then moderated a panel of IBM researchers on the future of innovation.

The IBM Centennial celebration came as the company is reportedly on the lookout for the successor to Palmisano as CEO. At the start of the event, IBM highlighted several VIPs, including IBM's senior vice presidents who marched in as a group. Yet, only one of them, Virginia "Ginni" Rometty, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Sales, Marketing and Strategy, got onstage to address the audience. Rometty is reported to be the front-runner for the CEO slot, ahead of Michael E. Daniels, senior vice president and group executive for IBM's services unit, and Rodney C. Adkins, senior vice president of IBM's Systems and Technology Group. The stint at the centennial event gave Rometty an opportunity to address the entire IBM Nation, as the proceedings were broadcast to IBMers all over the world. She talked about IBM's dedication to every client's success.

For his part, Stan Litow, vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs at IBM, discussed IBM's global Centennial Day of Service, in which 300,000 IBMers around the world -- close to three quarters of its global workforce -- volunteered in more than 5,000 projects in 120 countries, meeting civic and societal challenges and serving millions in need.

Palmisano returned to the stage for closing remarks and to talk about IBM's future of leadership. He spoke of how IBM as a global company needed to evolve its values and in 2003 he decided to call on IBMers around the world to participate in that process. That resulted in three new values: Dedication to every client's success; Innovation that matters - for our company and for the world; and Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships. Those values carry IBM into its next century.

However, before departing, all 2,000 IBMers present at the event stood to sing the IBM rally song, "Ever Onward."

Yet, of IBM's landmark anniversary, perhaps Ken Chenault summed it up best when he said: "Even at 100 years old, IBM will remain one of the youngest companies on this ever smarter planet."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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