Skip to main content


Innovation from within

Global Innovation Outlook

Where inventive ideas mature into innovative solutions that can be rapidly developed and deployed.

IBM's employees are its strongest asset, and when more than 50,000 of them took part in an online jam-session, the value of each employee's role in innovation crystallized into a need for global action. IBM responded by exploring a new approach to suggestion boxes, based on the jam format, IBM's dedication to open collaborative innovation and an understanding of idea-rich communities. An exploratory pilot at IBM Research quickly evolved into the company-wide ThinkPlace program, where inventive ideas mature into innovative solutions that can be rapidly developed and deployed.

ThinkPlace is unique because the ideas are out in the open -- anyone in the company can suggest ideas, comment on them, refine them, express support or even explain why the idea might not work. More importantly, the ideas that employees think have the greatest potential to grow the business, solve existing problems, or improve IBM's culture will automatically be considered.

Behind the scenes, a global network of subject matter experts use data mining tools to track the most promising ideas and help manage top-rated ideas through the formal review processes. Additional business methods then carry the idea forward for implementation.

"We're taking the best aspects of jams, wikis and online communities and applying them to our understanding of innovation in the 21st century," said Nick Donofrio, senior vice president, technology and innovation, and one of the executive sponsors of the ThinkPlace program. "We're blessed with more than 300,000 of the most innovative employees in the world, but it hasn't always been clear how they could share their ideas - until now. ThinkPlace provides an open, collaborative and global platform for tapping into their collective expertise."

These expert innovators have helped lay the groundwork for IBM's success, not only because of the ideas that find their way into IBM products and solutions, but because the processes themselves are a valuable new approach to spurring innovation from within - both for IBM and for its clients.