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Online "Jamming" at IBM

18 May 2005 No Comment

Some 3 years ago IBM tried a new approach to what is called “social computing” - within IBM we call it a “Jam” – and it was arguably the biggest public experiment in employee to employee communications we conducted inside the company. Since then we did several of these jam sessions, the last one – called the World Jam - from 26 October till the 28th last year.

In this post I'll try to describe these huge online sessions.

What exactly are these Jam Sessions ?

I would like to use the definition my colleague Wendy Kellog of the social computing group at IBM gave some time ago: “It's an event, a web site, a tool, a bulletin board, a discussion and more all wrapped up into a 72-hour exchange of ideas and brainstorming on issues ranging from changes in the marketplace to internal dilemmas to balancing your work and social life.”

The Jams happen through our corporate intranet and each major topic in a jam has its own forum, in which participants can read, post a comment or reply to other comments in a threaded discussion.

Each of the fora are moderated by subject-matter experts and moderators , who guide the discussion.  Their comments are marked by a special icon.

During or after the jam, participants may vote on the best ideas generated.  Text analysis tools are used to mine the content for significant themes and other information.

Here's what it looks like (screenshot from post WorldJam page):

What was the objective ?

ValuesJam: As you might know, IBM has been around for some time. In fact the values of the company and its employees dated back from Tom Watson, Sr., IBM’s founder. Senior management believed that the only meaningful way to shape values for a worldwide company like IBM was to trust its employees to shape those values itself through a “ValuesJam”.

Thousands of comments posted by IBMers over the course of ValuesJam were analyzed and distilled into three values. (duration: 72 hours/posted comments: 9,337)

WorldJam followed last year and this time the objective was to identify actionable ideas with regards to our values. In the jam’s initial phase, participants developed tens of thousands of ideas, which were later analyzed and distilled to create 191 proposals.

Employees were then invited to rate the ideas. Senior management committed to action on 35 of the top-rated recommendations.

Results ?

Well, here are some numbers:

*Total unique users to WorldJam 2004: 56,870 employees.

*Total views of the homepage: 131,072.

*Total numbers of posts and replies to discussion fora: 32,622.

But more importantly these online Jam sessions helped IBM re-define it's core values and distill workable and “real” projects to bring them to life. All the inspiration, ideas and knowledge came from the employees.

On the other hand it gave us first hand experience and insights in social computing, a very interesting area for our researchers.

You can find more information on our “Jam sessions” here:

Annual Report

About Manager Jam (opens a .pdf)

Information from the IBM Social Computing Group

Don't hesitate to send me an e-mail through the IAOC if you have more questions or post a comment.

Philippe Borremans, PR Manager, IBM Belgium & Luxembourg.

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