IBMers at Their Best
IBM has long practiced the art and the science of developing the world’s best business and technology professionals. For the last 100 years, IBM has worked to support and foster this distinctive brand of thinker and doer, also known as the “IBMer.”
Last year, IBM used the occasion of its upcoming 100th anniversary as an opportunity to look back and clearly define the unique corporate characteristics that have made IBM so successful over the last century. Through an exhaustive process, we identified five traits that describe IBM at its best, collectively called our Corporate Character. They include: pioneering intellectual capital that creates new value; applying science to the challenges of business and society; being global, in presence, viewpoint and lasting impact; collaborating as experts dedicated to the success of others; and in so doing, making the world work better.
To help make IBMers successful within this framework, we then created a working group and conducted hundreds of interviews with clients and internal leaders to help refresh and redefine the core competencies of IBMers at their best. These nine “IBM Competencies” map closely with our Corporate Character, and include a varied set of capabilities, from continuously transforming to acting with a systemic perspective. We believe that together with our newly codified Corporate Character, these IBM Competencies will help IBMers better understand what is expected of them, by both our company and the world.
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IBM is in the business of taking on complex situations and challenges. The mission of IBMers is to make the world work better—from daily breakthroughs to world-changing progress. So we focus on the future and embrace the hard challenges facing our teams, our clients and our communities. We see opportunity in complexity, and are skilled at identifying the central issues and charting a path forward. We take personal accountability for transformative outcomes—and our belief in progress inspires others to rise to the challenge with us.
Partner for clients’ success
IBM’s worth depends not just on what we imagine, but what we deliver. IBMers go above and beyond what is expected to achieve our clients’ current and future aspirations. We deliver client value. We act as their partners and derive great pride from their success. We invest the time to understand their situation and unmet needs; seek out market and societal insights; and make connections across the whole of IBM to serve them. We work alongside our clients, co-creating approaches, solutions and ultimately their success—which, in turn, transforms whole industries, economies and society.
IBMers are global professionals and global citizens—and must therefore be skilled at collaboration. We think and work shoulder-to-shoulder with others—across the boundaries of teams, disciplines, organizations, countries and cultures—to achieve the right outcome. As the human dimension of a globally integrated enterprise, we build our own networks of experts—and we encourage our colleagues to use the collective intelligence of their network not just to get work done, but to identify what needs to be done and to take collective action. We see our networks of global citizens not just as collections of individuals, but as a collective leadership force creating the full promise of IBM to transform the marketplace, society and the world.
Act with a systemic perspective
IBMers are systems thinkers. We help our clients, our colleagues and the world understand and design the essential dimensions of any system—how it senses, maps and analyzes information, detects underlying patterns, and translates that knowledge into belief and action. We help others see this end-to-end view, synthesizing information from many dimensions—whether the system in question is technological, economic, societal, cultural or natural. This systemic view allows us to frame problems properly, and to take the right action in the right way at the right time. It also lets us anticipate the impact of our actions on others. Knowing all this, we act wisely while boldly taking the right risks.
Build mutual trust
IBM’s business model requires getting different constituents to work together to solve problems and open up opportunity—be that inside IBM, among organizations, within our clients or, in the case of world-changing work, with many communities. IBMers are skilled at building “360 degrees of trust” across this full spectrum of IBM’s constituents—finding common ground for those with different objectives, aspirations, constraints and cultures. We build these kinds of relationships by acting with integrity, assuming positive intent and ensuring that openness and trust are maintained—even when agreement is not achieved. We trust in the skills of others—that they know what to do and how to do it, and are motivated to achieve the result. And if we see trust eroding, we take accountability to remedy that quickly.
Influence through expertise
IBM’s value proposition and business model are grounded in delivering expertise. So we continually deepen our own and our colleagues’ knowledge and eminence—as professionals, as collaborators, as leaders, and as fully realized IBMers. We develop our skills and careers through feedback, coaching, mentoring and challenging assignments—within IBM and in the communities where we and our clients live and work. And we take personal responsibility for developing IBM’s thought leadership, both inside and outside our organizations.
IBMers are committed to building the future—a better world, and a better IBM. This is what IBM has done for 100 years. Our intellectual curiosity and spirit of restless reinvention, animated by a belief in reason, in science and in progress, infuse the enterprise with energy. Today, in a world where the future is far less predictable, IBMers actively seek what we do not know and haven’t yet imagined. We cultivate an environment of openness to new approaches and experimentation. We rethink assumptions and ask probing questions—to grasp new situations, unearth opportunities and create new markets. We engage others whose background, culture, language or work style is different from our own. This is the heart of an IBM that can learn, adapt and continuously transform.
Communicate for impact
IBMers communicate to find mutual understanding and to build a sense of shared outcomes. That starts with listening; we ensure people’s ideas and concerns are heard. We bring deep expertise and perspective, which are the ingredients to communicating clearly and simply, especially in complex situations. We interpret and synthesize disparate concepts, strategies and intent. We leverage our understanding of others’ perspectives—the ones they can express, and the ones they as yet cannot—to tailor what we say and how we say it. We communicate authentically, in a timely way, in the most effective manner—even when conveying an unpopular opinion.
Help IBMers succeed
The IBM brand is about IBMers, and how we show up in the world—not just client-facing IBMers, but all of us. So we each strive to bring our best selves to our work. And we are in the service of the success of others—ensuring they have resources, ongoing support and clear milestones. We take the time to share insights and discuss the challenge in front of us. We anticipate and remove obstacles and prevailing practices that are holding people back. We acknowledge others’ contributions, champion their ideas and help each IBMer find his or her own motivation. We create an environment in which our colleagues feel a sense of purpose and engagement, and which draws on their own strong desire to act.
The Globally Integrated Enterprise
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