One Year Later and IBM’s Social Business is Still Superior to Apple’s

imageIn an article I wrote last year titled “Why Every Company Needs to be More Like IBM and Less Like Apple”, I compared the cultures of both companies and how over the past 25 years they had flipped: “Today’s Big Blue is the antithesis of Big Brother. It’s ‘Big Open’. A transparent, nimble, collaborative organization known more for listening and engaging customers than for dictating to them. While ironically, some say Apple now resembles Big Brother given their propensity for tight controls.”

That article and the number of follow on pieces written to support and rebuke my argument stirred up a heated debate that continues to this day. So how have the two companies fared in the past year?

IBM’s stock price is up 7% and Apple’s is up about 2.5% year over year. Not a significant difference, but as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, Apple looks to be losing momentum while IBM’s is building.

So what’s going on?

Apple insiders tell me the culture has improved under Apple CEO Tim Cook, but that it’s still not open and transparent. Since the death of Jobs, the company has been trying to move from a company built around one person, to a company struggling to adapt to a new model. The question, “what would Steve do” is still a common refrain, while secretly wondering if Apple will maintain its innovative edge.

In contrast, IBM’s social business culture continues to produce more patents than any other company in the world, and employees feel free to engage in conversation on almost any subject. The reason, according to Jeff Schick, IBM’s VP of Social Software, is that, “We view our most important asset is people and how you best leverage and capitalize on ideas is a game changer.”

IBM focus on people and providing technology to help people work smarter will be a competitive advantage in the long run. Companies that emulate IBM’s culture of achievement will attain superior results than businesses that are trapped in a culture of fear.

Yes, Apple will continue to develop new technology and build on existing platforms. But Let’s face it, Apple has yet to release anything truly innovative under Cook’s leadership – so far. Can the company produce quality innovations without a tastemaker like Jobs? We’ll see. But most companies are far better off developing a social business culture where the crowd can weigh in.

In a world where innovation is critical to an organization’s success, there are many things businesses need to do to bolster it. But nothing is more important than leveraging the experts inside and outside your organization to ensure a quality pipeline of ideas.

Too many executives still believe in exclusive innovation. That’s a mistake. You can no longer create great products alone – IBM understands this. That’s why their culture and the technology solutions that support it are making them one of the most adaptive companies in the world.

They’re prepared for the future – are you?




Columnist for Forbes, CEO for Evolve!, a Social Business consultancy. I am the author of Socialized! and creator of several viral business presentations – – follow me on Twitter MarkFidelman or Circle me on Google+

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Author: Ruby Wade