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IBM Businesses

IBM Uses Internal Kickstarters To Pick Projects 40

alphadogg writes "IBM is readying its fourth internal Kickstarter-like crowdfunding effort over the past year or so to inspire employees to innovate and collaborate, often across departments and the globe. According to IBM Research member Michael Muller, IBM has embraced the crowdfunding model popularized in recent years by Kickstarter, Indiegogo and hundreds of other such platforms that match up creators and financial backers from among the masses. But IBM's 'behind-the-firewall' form of crowdfunding, for which Muller has coined the term 'enterprise crowdfunding,' is unique in that it isn't open to the public. In an experiment held in the third quarter of last year, 500 Watson Research Center employees were each given $100 to invest exclusively in colleagues' proposals, which ranged from procuring a 3D printer to setting up a disc golf course to recording and sharing seminars."
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IBM Uses Internal Kickstarters To Pick Projects

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like a good way to make employees feel they have some say in what the company does. I wish more places did this, unless they simply scrap the data afterwards and management vetoes the winning projects.

    • by Joining Yet Again ( 2992179 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @02:46AM (#44753967)

      There is only one way to have a significant say in what any company does: owning it.

      To think you have any influence in a company which might show you the door in 10 minutes is just part of the silly modern promise of worker freedom.

      If you want business freedom, own your own company, or join a co-operative.

    • by gelfling ( 6534 )

      It's bullshit. It's paying your workforce a hundred bucks to come up with the next million dollar idea. And senior management gets to decide which idea is the one they like apart from any sane rational or even free market factors.

  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:03AM (#44754011)
    I thought they fired all of them and replaced them with robots.
  • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:10AM (#44754029) Journal

    ... involve neither putters nor 3.5" floppies. I'm so disappointed.

    (For those who share my former ignorance, it is getting a frisbee to a distant target with as few throws as possible.)

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @05:02AM (#44754351)

    "employees were each given $100 to invest exclusively in colleagues' proposals, which ranged from procuring a 3D printer to setting up a disc golf course to recording and sharing seminars."

    Given how small the employee population of a company like IBM is; $100 per person might add up to 10,000 or so. Talk about guaranteeing any significant idea, such as a new product could never be sufficiently funded by this.

    It sounds like they are remiss about the whole kickstarter thing. If they were serious about it, they'd have at least $10,000 per person for each employee to intelligently divide among projects -- with some sort of reward for folks supporting winning projects; in the form of a revenue share, E.g. 10% of revenue reserved for winners; allocated among employees that supported in proportion to each employee's contribution.

    • It actually said right in the summary (in the same sentence you quoted part of, even) that it's 500 employees.. $50,000 isn't exactly to be sniffed at, but it's not that great if everyone pulls in opposite directions. I'd probably try and encourage everyone go for getting a good 3D printer.

    • Ignorant much?

      IBM has, according to their website, 434,246 employees. So much for a small employee population...unless you meant 'a small country' or 'a small state.'

      In any case, if you even took the time to read the 4-sentence blurb, you would see that they did this with 500 employees at their research center, which would still give 5 times your estimate of '10,000 or so.'

      And I don't see why it would make any sense for IBM to give every person $10,000. The idea is to ferret out popular/worthwhile ideas.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        The problem I have with this is crowdfunding is about big ideas; Procuring a 3D printer is not a big idea. When was the last time you saw a kickstarter project with someone asking for help buying themselves a personal 3D printer?

        A big idea is something more like "go to the moon and start working on an interplanetary computer network" or "build a supercomputer"

        You will never be able to measure the financial contribution made by that 3D printer, so why bother?

        Sure you will. The practice is to i

        • But then do you not have to evaluate all the unsuccessful stuff. How do you quantify the rapidly prototyping with a 3D printer vs. slower prototyping, which out of necessity is only going to be used on well formed ideas and the various success rates. It's pretty hard maths and it's only by judicious use of these tools can maximum benefit be obtained.

          And even if you could do this you wouldn't be measuring anything, you'd be estimating.

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            But then do you not have to evaluate all the unsuccessful stuff. How do you quantify the rapidly prototyping with a 3D printer vs. slower prototyping, which out of necessity is only going to be used on well formed ideas and the various success rates.

            This, by the way: is not a new problem. It's part of the accounting that management of businesses like IBM already have to do in order to figure out their return on assets, and other metrics typically used by management.

            And technically.... operating a 3D

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Umm, it's not crowdfunding. It's a survey or poll. Like what do you want for the break room? Ping pong table? Cappuccino machine? Etc.

    You know, stuff people have been doing for forever to get information on what a group wants.

    It's missing all the elements of crowdfunding. Like the actual funding from the crowd.

    • by ET3D ( 1169851 )

      Right (and wrong, see below). This is a bad article by Network World, trying to frame this as crowdfunding, and bundling it with other crowdfunding news. It's possible that this is how IBM presented the subject to them, but I'd have liked a bit more critical thinking from the reporter.

      The result is that most comments here make it clear that people didn't get what IBM did. To quote the relevant part of the article: "they were able to propose and fund projects designed to improve corporate culture and staff m

  • It won't work because people cannot do anything else with the money and thus will spend it on some project. They will not choose the best project as they don't have any particular incentive to do so. They will rather spend the money on the project of the people they are friends with.

    To make it work I would propose the following changes:

    - Employees have to invest real money (e.g., from their salaries). Investments are, of course, completely voluntarily. Investments could be limited to e.g., $1000 per employe

    • by CBM ( 51233 )


      Kickstarter is about putting your own money where your interests are. You wouldn't do otherwise because it's your money.

      This IBM project is about putting fake money where your fake interests are, so the results will be fake.

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @08:31AM (#44755207)

    At $100 they've wasted 99% of the funds on making people choose, when I was at Cisco anything under $10k could be put on a corporate credit card because it cost $68 in personnel time to cut a PO with approvals, I can't see how this model can possibly be effective with such small amounts of money unless it's a testbed to research the concept for bigger corporate-wide use.

  • Have heard maybe a German bank was doing something like this, but havent come across other examples
  • I had assumed that I was going to read about an internal system IBM uses to determine which projects to pursue, that operates similar to "Kickstarter" but where the donors offer their professional services as employees of IBM toward projects proposed by various members of various departments.

    I think a system like that would work if each user had to spend "priority" in some fashion. For instance, you could be doled out 5 priority tags to attach to a particular skill tag which you will in turn offer toward a

  • Ah, because the old business model of 'suck the lives out of your employees and then fire them indiscriminately' needed tweaking, then? Interesting.

Frankly, Scarlett, I don't have a fix. -- Rhett Buggler