Three interesting facts about IBM today

November 15, 2011

Three interesting facts about IBM. It has shifted away from reliance on marketing computers. It has appointed a female insider as leader. And Warren Buffett has invested heavily in the oldest of technological giants.

Although this is a story about IBM, it is also one about Warren Buffett, pictured here, arguably a very atypical business leader. (Maybe there is no ‘typical’ business leader, but that’s a digression).

Decline of the heroic leader

The decline in news stories about successful leaders has been noticeable since the heady days when I began collecting them for LWD some five years ago. Even the BBC has spotted the trend, identifying recent research which adds to suspicions of the hero-worship approach to studying CEOs.

That old war horse rides again

So it give me some pleasure to mention that old war-horse Warren Buffet, and IBM a company once lauded as the world’s biggest technological giant and now re-inventing itself as a software house. Buffett, who bought a railroad in his biggest acquisition, turned to a century-old technology company in the third quarter to help guard his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. against economic slumps.

Business Week outlines the developing story [15th Nov 2011]:

Buffett has [recently] spent more than $10 billion buying International Business Machines Corp. stock, his biggest investment in the period. The stake gives Berkshire 5.5 per cent of a company that has moved from competition with Apple and Dell to focus on providing business clients with software and services. IBM sold its personal-computer business in 2005 and has beaten the Dow Jones Industrial Average each year since.

Buffett, 81, [An ‘ageist ’ comment? But I would have mentioned it, too… ED, LWD] has built Berkshire to withstand recessions and market declines by seeking firms with lasting competitive advantages, or what he calls “moats.”

Buffet bucks leadership fashion

One endearing aspect of Warren Buffett stories is the manner in which he avoids fashion in his investment decisions and in his leadership style. It is hard to fit him into the mould of the corporate CEO identified with a great vision. His charisma is that of reputation rather than idealised influence.

Warren as a thought leader

It is easier to see him as a thought leader rather than a transformational figure. His company goes on succeeding as safe rather than innovative. His reputation is as a safe pair of hands, which places him in the category of ‘manager not leader’ according to one way of distinguishing between the two labels.

IBM’s revival

He has now become interested in IBM which has long passed through the stage of being labelled a technological innovator. It grows its own leaders internally, risking remaining within its famed IBM culture while failing to bring in the brightest charismatics that money can buy…

On the other hand

On the other hand, IBM is about to appoint as leader one of the few females in Corporate America’s boardrooms. Insider Virginia Rometty will take over from her mentor Sam Palmisano in January 2012. In an earlier post LWD covered her appointment


The image of Warren Buffett above is from Reg Trembley’s insightful blog The Director’s Cut.

IBM appoints Virginia Rometty as CEO

October 26, 2011

And now there are two…female leaders of great IT corporations

Viginia Rometti will become the first female chief executive officer in IBM’s 100-year history on Jan 1st [2012]. She will succeed Sam Palmisano who has been CEO since 2002, and will remain chairman.

In a month which has seen the appointment of Meg Whitman brought in as an outsider at Hewlett Packard, we now have the IBM ‘lifer’ in charge of a second US corporate giant.

To go more deeply

Virginia Rometty to head IBM as first female chief executive

Rometti knows IBM is one mistake from obselescence

IBM’s Rometty just kept on rising

10 CEOs in the making: Virginia Rometti

International Conference Highlights Creative Leadership

July 3, 2008

An international conference has highlighted the importance of creative leadership for dealing with the most urgent problems of the age

Buffalo, New York State was the venue in May 2008 for a conference on Creativity and Innovation Management, Integrating Inquiry and Action.

Keynote speakers highlighted growing interest in creative leadership.

Two for One

The Conference brought together two overlapping networks of researchers and practitioners. The International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC), at State University of New York, Buffalo organized the main event, with main sponsors IBM and Fisher Price.

Prior to the main conference, Creativity and Innovation Management Journal (Wiley-Blackwell) held its second community meeting to award its best paper prizes for 2006 and 2007.

The expressed aim of the CIM journal is to

“bridge the gap between theory and practice of organizing imagination and innovation.”

The Best Paper Awards

The prizes for best papers were selected on votes cast by the members of the editorial board of the CIM journal, and awarded by co-founder Susan Moger of Manchester Business School.

The 2006 award went to a team of researchers from the conference host institute, ICSC. The paper traced the development of the Parnes-Osborn system of creative problem-solving to its recent format as a flexible and process-oriented system

The 2007 prize went to a team from the University of Berlin. In a carefully analysed study, the work explored innovation roles in successful highly innovative product-development projects.

Each prize-winning paper offered insights into the contribution of creative leadership in change processes.

Keynote Speakers Highlight Creative Leadership

Creative leadership was a recurrent theme within the meetings. In the overview presentation on Creativity Past Present and Future, Tudor Rickards of Manchester Business School explored the origins of creativity beliefs in cultural myths, and how they developed. Drawing on contemporary examples, he illustrated how visionary and political leadership has contributed to the emergence of the creativity industries, as well as to the transformation of cultural and political systems.

He drew attention to the EEC plans for making 2009 the year of creativity and innovation, and suggested that this might give impetus to a global creativity network.

Subsequent speakers also explored the theme of creative leadership. Michael Mumford warned against mystifying the concept. Professor Mumford pointed to empirical evidence that creative results are crucially influenced by the leader who defines a viable mission in clear terms, encourages developmental learning, assembling and building effective teams, and ensuring efficient planning and implementation.

The two invited business leaders were Casimir DeCusatis of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group, and Miriam Kelley, Vice President for Design from Fisher-Price Toys.

Dr DeCusatis reported on an innovation study conducted within IBM and in particular highlighted distinctions among different innovation teams. His paper appears in the June 2008 issue of CIM journal.

Miriam Kelley examined the strategies deployed at Fisher-Price Toys facilitate fresh ideas and innovation, such as benchmarking across industries, creating an executive position focused strictly on innovation, and introducing deliberate creative processes.

Leaders we deserve has drawn attention to the need for more studies of creative leaders and the processes of creative leadership.

This conference represents a step in the right direction.