Featured Case Studies

IBM’s Internal Culture for Social Media Innovation

Purpose: Employees at IBM are part of that company’s unique, decentralized social media approach, which is driving unprecedented collaboration and innovation. Rather than having one corporate blog or Twitter account, thousands of IBMers are the voice of the company. IBM lets employees talk—to each other and the public—without intervention. With a culture as diverse and distributed as IBM’s, getting employees to collaborate and share makes good business sense.

IBM’s social media guidelines simply state that employees are individually responsible for what they create and prohibit releasing proprietary information.

An internal wiki serves as a hub of information, drawing well over a million page views every day. Additionally, downloads in the company’s user-generated media library now total 11 million.

History: In 2003, IBM conducted its first Company Jam, bringing employees together in an employee-led online forum for three straight days.

Several months later, IBM opened blogging platforms inside the company, and today as many as 500,000 people now blog for the company. IBM lists all of its blogs in a simple directory sorted by the name of the blogger. They share thoughts, ideas, presentations, photos, videos and more.

17,000 internal blogs
100,000 employees using internal blogs
53,000 members on SocialBlue (like Facebook for employees)
A few thousand “IBMers” on Twitter
Thousands of external bloggers,
Almost 200,000 on LinkedIn
As many as 500,000 participants in company crowd-sourcing “jams”
50,000 in alum networks on Facebook and LinkedIn

An innovation jam in 2006 brought together employees—and friends, family and clients—to discuss more than 50 research projects within the company.

From there, they voted on the 10 best, which became incubator businesses that IBM funded with $100 million, all based on “crowd” discussion.


Early beginnings: Kraft Foods Crowdsources its Innovation Process to its Customer

Purpose: For many years, Kraft offered an open line to its customers, who could call with questions, complaints, or ideas for new products or improvements. In the past, however, nothing happened with this input. But as innovation leaders have admitted, they really weren’t looking for real input, even if customers had actually offered any (they didn’t).

This changed in 2005 with the launch of a new Innovatewithkraft.com website where anyone can submit ideas for new products, processes or advertising, and a vanity phone line, 1-800-OPN IDEA, designed for the same purpose.

Web developers created a simple toolkit for customer idea competitions, a method for harvesting “products & packages that are ready to be brought to market (or can be brought to market quickly).”

The company’s site was the very first attempt at breaking out of its internally-focused boundaries for gathering innovative ideas. The site was simple and the rules restrictive, but the process inspired Kraft to think differently about where innovative ideas come from.
Internally, it took Kraft many decades to get its internal innovation management organized and optimized. Today it has an infrastructure and organizational framework in place for open innovation with their customers and users.

Timeline: 2005 – present

Results: Open innovation has driven a number of recent packaging enhancements, including the Oreo Snack ‘n Seal package, the Maxwell House Flavor Lock Lid and composite canister, and the package for Trident Xtra Care gum with Recaldent.










Amy Spreeman