IBM: From Inventor to Innovator

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : BSTR136 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 300;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 300 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Case Length : 11 Pages
Period : 1970 - 2004
Organization : IBM
Pub Date : 2004
Teaching Note : Not Available
Countries : USA, Global
Industry : Information Technology


IBM had one of the best research facilities in the world and employed world-class research scientists. Over the years, researchers at IBM Research developed a number of products that became the foundations of the IT Industry. However, IBM either failed to commercialize most of the innovations that came out of its labs or was late in marketing them. This led to a number of smaller companies growing big on IBM's innovations. In the 1980s and the early-1990s, IBM transformed itself under the leadership of CEO Louis Gerstner. The transformation involved comprehensive changes, prominent among which were the changes made in the research culture that facilitated faster technology transfer.


To understand the relationship between research and product development, especially in large technology companies

To appreciate the importance of a close relationship between the research wings and the business units of companies to ensure faster commercialization of inventions

To examine the importance of culture in organizations and how it supports innovation

To analyze the difference between invention and innovation, and the relationship between the two


  Page No.
IBM Tops Patent List 1
Background 2
The Fall of a Giant 3
Cultural Transformation 4
Better Late Than Never 6
Can IBM Resurrect? 6
Exhibits 9


Case, Innovation, IBM Research, Louis Gerstner, IBM Culture, Sam Palmisano, Database Management Systems, Microprocessor market, IBM Fellows, Deep Blue, Blue Gene, 'on-demand-computing', Xerox, Pacific Bell, PARC, Bell Laboratories

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