IBM's staff fuels idea 'Jam'

PALO ALTO, CA: IBM's internal communications played a major role in the planning and execution of its online brainstorming session "Innovation Jam," which was held in late July.

PALO ALTO, CA: IBM's internal communications played a major role in the planning and execution of its online brainstorming session "Innovation Jam," which was held in late July.

Ed Bevan, VP of research communications at IBM, said there were more than 37,000 ideas generated during the three-day session, July 24-27. The gathering drew more than 140,000 participants from 75 different countries and several companies, but the majority came from staff, he said. The top ideas - maybe 25 to 40 in all - will be backed by $100 million in funding, the company said.

Putting together the event was a massive undertaking that the communications staff turned around in just three months. That included structuring Web sites to lay out the purpose and ground rules, invitations to clients and thought leaders, and convincing IBM staff to not only participate, but to have their kids online. IBM set legal parameters: No one person can patent any idea generated during the discussion.

The novel concept also made communications difficult. Bevan said when he reached out to clients for the first Jam, they weren't completely convinced.

"Most of the companies we approached, [asking them to] present 50 to 500 participants per company, opted for the lower number," Bevan said. IBM hopes for a stronger client turnout for phase two, which starts on September 12, where "Jammers" will spend 72 hours talking about how phase one's top ideas can be improved and validated.

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