Interview: Mike Wing, IBM - May 20, 20052005-05-20
For anyone with an opinion about corporate blogging, the big news this week was IBM’s dynamic step into the blogosphere with their initiative to enable employee blogging and making publicly available their detailed employee blogging guidelines.
In this special edition of For Immediate Release podcast interviews, Shel and Neville enjoyed a 53-minute conversation with Mike Wing, IBM’s Vice President Strategic Communications, about the big news and what it signals for IBM as a new way to engage with the marketplace. Our conversation also addressed other areas of communication at IBM with Mike’s commentary and opinion on a wide range of topics including IBM’s corporate values, the company’s recent history, how the employee jams came about and the value of them, the role of the intranet, taxonomy and folksonomies, and the impact blogging will have from both the perspective of an organization and an individual.
About our conversation partner:
Mike Wing is Vice President Strategic Communications at IBM where he has worldwide responsibility for strategic and policy-related messaging. Before establishing this new function in IBM Corporate Communications in 2004, Mike was Vice President Worldwide Intranet Strategy & Programs, responsible for the strategy and development of w3.ibm.com, IBM’s corporate intranet, also known as the On Demand Workplace, which reaches the company’s 320,000 employees worldwide. He guided ‘w3’ from a small publishing site to the company’s primary medium for information and a key engine of culture change in IBM’s turnaround during the 1990s. Mike joined IBM in April 1997, after 13 years managing employee communications at Time Warner Inc. and its Home Box Office division. Before joining HBO he was editor of the worldwide employee publication for CBS Inc. And before that, he was a graduate student in English at the State University of New York at Buffalo, concentrating on Shakespeare. While there, Mike was a leader of Vico College, an interdisciplinary undergraduate humanities program. He graduated from Swarthmore College in 1970, with High Honors. He is co-author of The Kissing Place, an original film produced for USA Network.
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Interview Segment Time Points:
- 00:13 Mike sets the scene with an overview of his background, and about his current responsibilities at IBM.
- 03:40 IBM’s corporate blogging initiative, why Mike thinks blogging is such a big deal and why the company is doing this.
- 08:24 Neville comments on IBM’s strategic blogging move as having a massive impact on the future development of this medium from an organizational perspective.
- 09:08 It’s an experiment, Mike says, we don’t know what to expect, and talks about how it might develop for IBM in the context of the company’s business model: more important in the long run is what we will learn and what experiences we will gain.
- 11:27 Shel asks about employee reaction to the news about the corporate blogging initiative.
- 11:35 Mike on positive reactions and what the company is doing to support the initiative.
- 13:48 Neville asks about IBM’s corporate values statement and how all of this connects to it.
- 14:09 Lots of links between the blogging initiative and those values, Mike says: if you’re going to be visible and transparent in communication, trust is essential.
- 17:49 Mike on how IBM’s corporate values were developed: the crucial role of the employee “values jam.”
- 19:54 Mike on the traumatic experience of IBM’s near death in the early 1990s; Lou Gerstner’s pivotal role in the turnaround; the question of values.
- 21:33 Shel asks about the employee jams and the role they played as an extension to the employee intranet as a channel for integrating the business.
- 21:54 Most important of all was the essential role they played in transforming the company, Mike says, commenting on some of the public snarkiness that greeted the news of IBM’s corporate blogging initiative.
- 22:30 IBM has been living in an electronic environment for many years, Mike says, longer than many competitors have existed: an overview.
- 24:30 Mike on the key role Lou Gerstner played in halting plans to break up IBM in the early 1990s; cultural obstacles.
- 27:19 Mike on the role HR research and a global employee survey played in 1999 in deciding to create the jams; formal communication channels vs. informal ones; how the intranet is perceived by employees.
- 30:55 The pragmatic core of the first world jam in May 2001 - capturing best practice and sharing it; structure of and topics discussed in the jam; the different conversations with CIOs and CMOs.
- 33:54 Six jams done so far, says Mike; how people react to the values; how to make the values real.
- 35:07 56,000 participants in WorldJam 2004, 32,000 posts, 191 ideas.
- 35:52 Neville asks about cultural changes and the impact of the sale of the PC division to Lenovo and employee perceptions of this change.
- 36:39 Mike’s anecdotal sense: it crystalized the shift in IBM’s business model; for people inside and outside, it’s a turning point in thinking about the company.
- 28:56 Mike comments on business historian Alfred Chandler, the creation of the IBM PC as an early version of open standards. IBM is a machine built to grow institutions at a societal level, he says.
- 40:41 Shel asks whether ‘working knowledge’ is still a concept for the w3 intranet.
- 41:04 It is, Mike says, part of a company-wide application architecture which delivers different content to people based on personal profiles; on the long term goals with adaptive portlets.
- 44:24 Mike on taxonomy and folksonomies; the differences between the two; how IBM is exploring this and the upcoming launch of ThinkPlace.
- 46:29 Neville comments on such a tool as more than just posting and commenting: it’s to do with surfacing thinking and ideas.
- 46:56 Think about blogging: expressing points of view, talking about interesting things, Mike says, but at some level, you need to think about the impact it will have on the organization itself, and on yourself.
- 49:15 What’s a blogger? asks Mike. Someone ideally with value to add, expertise, a point of view, the confidence to do so in public, and the capacity to adapt and learn from what you encounter; on how blogging will continue to help IBM’s evolution.
- 50:06 Neville asks will we see Sam Palmisano or other senior executives blogging?
- 50:24 Work in progress, says Mike: there’s no blanket ‘executives get out there and blog.’ We’re thinking about areas that are important to everyone, eg, open source, public policy, and other things.
- 51:39 Shel, Neville and Mike with concluding wrap up.
- 52:28 Description of this podcast and where to find For Immediate Release.
Links for the brands, individuals and companies we discussed or mentioned in the conversation:
IBM, Time Warner, HBO, CBS, Technorati, Moore’s Law, Sun, Microsoft, TypePad, Google, DayPop, Blogger, Tom Friedman, Harvard Business Review interview with IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, Lou Gerstner, IBM VM, Java, PROFS, IABC, PRSA, AMA, PriceWaterhouseCooper, Lenovo, Alfred Chandler, IBM ThinkPad, Apple, Lisa Kamm, Andrew Sullivan, Robert Scoble, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, For Immediate Release.