A Do Tank not a Think Tank
Cognitive Build was a global, multi-phase, collaborative initiative in which tens of thousands of IBM employees came together in small groups to brainstorm ideas and to develop working prototypes for new products, services and internal processes based on the company’s cognitive computing system, Watson. Having enjoyed previous success with a large-scale online collaboration efforts called “jams,” IBM adapted these in Cognitive Build to include the characteristics of a hackathon – going beyond brainstorming to actual product and service creation.
Business Strategy can be fun
This large-scale experiment was undertaken for strategic business reasons. The company had provided employees extensive education on many aspects of digital and cognitive technology through its internal Think Academy learning system. However, cognitive represented a fundamental shift in IBM’s strategy, direction and value proposition, and the company believed it was essential that all IBMers understand it in an experiential and operational way. Only then would the company’s 380,000 employees be prepared to identify opportunities to apply it in the industries, sectors and parts of the world where they work.
Therefore, the goals of Cognitive Build were: (1) to deepen IBMers’ knowledge about the power of cognitive computing; (2) to equip them to build real solutions to business problems; and (3) to accelerate the cultural and operational transformation of IBM itself into a cognitive business. The groups in Cognitive Build, receiving guidance from cognitive experts around the company, honed their ideas over a three-month period and applied cognitive tools to bring their concepts to life. An internal virtual crowdfunding exercise prioritized and built awareness for the newly developed ideas. Teams whose ideas received the most support were invited to expand upon their prototypes and present them to a panel of senior executives.
Expectations exceeded by far
IBM anticipated hundreds of ideas and, instead, received thousands. Dozens of viable prototypes were expected; hundreds were created. The “Build” received broader participation than any previous collaborative initiative sponsored by IBM: nearly 75 percent of IBMers from 115 countries and every business unit were engaged. Ultimately, eight finalists and three winners were selected, and their projects – as well as many others that did not make it to the final round – are being further developed and implemented across different business units. Cognitive Build was an experiential learning journey that delivered tangible outcomes to the business. As one participant noted, “People love talking about wild ideas and business improvements. This was a great opportunity and platform to make ideas come to reality.”
To read about the whole project in more detail and see some of the project generated by it, have a look at the entire report in the link below!