A Different Kind of Company
“Corporations prosper only to the extent that they satisfy human needs. Profit is only the scoring system. The end is better living for us all.”Thomas J. Watson Jr.
former Chairman of IBM
It started with values. From its founding a century ago, IBM has been held together not by a new technology or business model, but by a shared set of beliefs. IBM’s leaders were convinced that a strong company culture and a commitment to good corporate citizenship would lead to success in both business and society.
Over the years, the world has changed many times. Wars have been fought. Economic recessions have come and gone. Technological revolutions have changed the way we work and live. And during that time, IBM has reinvented itself more than a few times.
In 1935, under the innovative and visionary leadership of IBM’s Anne Van Vechten, the company held its inaugural systems service engineering class for women. The class, which trained employees for professional-level positions, marked the start of an increased business role for women at IBM.
“IBM is among the progressive companies … that have achieved the seemingly impossible: high levels of business performance—innovation, growth and profit—and social good. They have mastered the tough challenge: building a resilient culture to flourish in turbulent times while leaving a positive mark on the world. While the short-term fortunes of any company, IBM included, can change precipitously, a high-performance, humanistic culture provides the foundation for sustainable growth, profit and innovation over the long term.”Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, and author of SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good.
But through it all, IBMers have defined their actions—and their company’s collective identity—according to a core set of values. They are the foundation that allows IBM not just to react to change, but to embrace and lead it. It is no exaggeration to say that without this steadfast commitment, IBM would not have survived the many challenges it faced during its first century, or be in a position of strength as it embarks upon its second.
It is also safe to say that this commitment has produced significant, measurable results—both in the form of profitable growth and in terms of societal impact. The latter is the subject of this report.
In 1965, then Chairman Thomas J. Watson Jr. described the company’s values this way: “We accept our responsibilities as a corporate citizen in community, national and world affairs; we serve our interests best when we serve the public interest … We want to be at the forefront of those companies which are working to make our world a better place.”
In 2003, IBM Chairman Sam Palmisano opened the company’s global intranet to ValuesJam, a broad-ranging re-examination of the role of beliefs and values within a radically different economic and societal reality. Most importantly, it aimed to further define what we, as IBMers, actually do value.
Being IBMers, tens of thousands of us joined in. Being IBMers, we took this opportunity very seriously—indeed, with a sometimes brutal honesty about where IBM stands as an enterprise, and what it needs to become. And being IBMers, we came to thoughtful and broad agreement on what distinguishes us at our core:
- Dedication to every client’s success
- Innovation that matters—for our company and for the world
- Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships
IBM has always been grounded in beliefs—under the Watsons, they were even called the Basic Beliefs. What has changed is the recognition that people’s values can no longer be dictated to them from above. ValuesJam signaled a new management philosophy for a new era—a profoundly different way of forging enterprise identity from the bottom up.
In this report you will find examples of IBM’s values-based decisions, strategies and actions throughout its history. These accomplishments from our past reinforce our belief that values can be the driving force behind a successful business and add societal value. They also remind us of the role that private enterprise can and should play in society. And they strengthen our commitment and inform our approach to good corporate citizenship going forward.
Featured IBM Initiatives
A Century of Shared Value
As IBM celebrates 100 years of building a responsible enterprise, we look back at several moments that have defined our values and served as cornerstones in our pursuit of progress.Launch Feature
Smarter Cities Challenge
The Smarter Cities Challenge is a competitive grant program awarding $50 million worth of services and expertise over the next three years to help 100 cities around the globe address a wide range of challenges.Launch Feature
Celebration of Service
IBMers worldwide are improving the communities in which they work, learn and live by pledging time and expertise. IBM honors their commitments with a program of new and expanded grants, and the opportunity to join a global effort.Launch Feature