This time I chatted with Irving Wladawsky-Berger who is now teaching engineering at MIT but until recently was a very senior technical officer at IBM.
It was a great experience and talk. I asked Irving about the state of innovation at IBM and whether a “near death experience” was always necessary to right the IBM ship. It was interesting to hear from Irving’s point of view that the IBM 360 series was a great innovation – even before the IBM PC – and that IBM mini’s – the Systems 36 was a failure. Irving regarded the Internet as a communications and business vehicle. He was the officer at IBM who drove its Internet strategy.
Irving also provided his perspectives on IBM CEOs including Sam Palmisano, Lou Gerstner, John Akers, John Opel and TJ Sr. and Jr. All of them were very close to IBM customers. Sam impressed Irving with his decisiveness and cited as examples Sam’s decisions to adopt Linux and exit the PC business. TJ Jr. made a "gutsy" decision to do the System 360.
At one point in our chat about innovation Irving said: "You have to determine does the market give you 'brand permission' to introduce a new product." This is a profound question that combines strategy, product management and marketing in the innovation analysis, reflecting Irving's extensive IBM experience. It is equally applicable to startups and emerging companies.
To hear more interesting insights from my chat with Irving see Dan Bricklin’s Log where you can his access the podcast entitled: "Vilna Shul Fireside Chat with Irving Wladawsky-Berger".