One of the interesting trends that have developed over the past few years is organizations desiring to build stronger connections with the community of individuals who no longer work within their organizations. Whether it is individuals who have retired or “alumni” who are now working for other organizations, companies like Booz and IBM are recognizing that there is significant value in maintaining contact with those individuals who have exited the organization.
As a former IBM employee I have been made aware of the availability of a variety of portals as well as communities on LinkedIn that allow for “IBMers” to remain connected to the community. Having looked through these portals and talked with colleagues from my time at IBM I believe that IBM has come to the realization that former colleagues can be some of the strongest advocates, especially as they transition into industries that are likely going to use IBM services or partner with the organization.
One video that I came across on the IBM Connection Portal is a documentary celebrating IBM’s 100 year anniversary. The amazing thing about this video is that it demonstrates that IBM’s success in the industry is closely tied to a variety of innovative projects that resulted in building products or delivering services that changed the world. The video uses examples such as the IBM Systen 360, Project Sabre, the Apollo Program, the Universal Product Code, and the Genographic project highlighting IBM’s leadership position in the technology industry and commitment to satisfying customer needs.
There were several themes that former IBM leaders stressed as part of the video that demonstrate how this position of leadership was attained. Among them is a belief that IBM is in the business of invention with a solid understanding that doing science in isolation does not work. This belief is connected to a more fundamental philosophy that IBM holds, which is articulated best by Thomas J. Watson Sr:
“What every business needs is more people who think”
Indeed this philosophy is clear to those of us who were part of this great organization. We saw first hand the company’s commitment to supporting its employees and rewarding their performance. While the above quote on the face of it might seem like an ordinary idea, yet its application in an organization the size of IBM is very powerful. It comes with a realization that the organization’s power comes from the people and the ideas they generate for the organization.
IBM is a clear example that shows that if organizations desire to win in the information age there has to be a convergence between strategy/innovation, execution/project management, and leadership/people. These are the components that make up the engine of success.