A Letter from Samuel J. Palmisano Chairman, President and Chief Executive Ofﬁcer
Of course, many people pay lip service to the importance of long-term thinking. But if you take it seriously— if you adopt it as a management philosophy— it leads to certain distinctive behaviors and choices. From the time of IBM’s founding 100 years ago, IBMers have taken a long-term view — thinking not in quarters, but in decades and beyond. This has shaped how we allocate resources and how we develop talent. It has led us to take a number of bold risks, and to collaborate broadly and deeply— with universities, governments, nongovernmental organizations, even our competitors. It has also underpinned how generations of IBMers worked to create a distinctive organizational culture — not by default or sporadically, but deliberately. Not grounded in products or charismatic leadership, but in shared values. Importantly, it shaped IBMers’ perspective on our company’s role in society. Indeed, long-term thinking is not only the key to business survival, it’s also the best deﬁnition I know of corporate responsibility.
For a century, our company has pioneered science and technology. It has also pioneered progressive workforce policies, environmental stewardship and community service. From Social Security, to equal opportunity employment, to advances in education, healthcare and more, IBMers’ innovations have changed the way the world literally works. Many examples are contained in this report, and many more are described on our Centennial website at ibm.com/ibm100/us/en/. Today, it all comes together in our work to build a smarter planet. This agenda encompasses everything we are as an organization. And one of its most profound consequences has been the convergence of our business and citizenship strategies. Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense. You cannot optimize complex systems like food, water, energy, education and cities without simultaneously expanding access to underserved populations, increasing their transparency and architecting their environmental sustainability. In addition, you cannot do it alone. A world that is becoming a system of systems is a world of inherent multiplicity and diversity. Effective action, therefore, is necessarily collaborative. We are seeing this in thousands of smarter planet engagements around the world, in the work of our Corporate Service Corps teams in emerging markets, in the success of our Smarter Cities Challenge and in many other ways. Which brings me back to the deeper notion of corporate responsibility that is the subject of this report. Far more than “giving back to society,” the idea of longterm responsibility leads both to an ambitious notion of the kind of work you tackle, and to a distinct management approach, encompassing investment, talent, policy, governance and stakeholder engagement. Most fundamentally, it leads you to unleash the ideas and deepen the expertise of your people. Products, services, technologies — and CEOs — come and go. But from decade to decade, it is IBM’s culture, its corporate character, that endures. And it is IBMers who manifest our character in action. In these pages, you will read about some of the ways IBMers are doing so. Indeed, as this report goes to press, one of the largest and potentially most consequential demonstrations of IBMers’ societal responsibility is underway. Through our Centennial Celebration of Service, IBMers around the world are devoting at least eight hours during 2011 to apply their talent and expertise to civic and societal needs. I can’t wait to see the impact. In this work, and in what we do every day, my colleagues and I know that we are only scratching the surface of what is possible on a smarter planet. And that is why we also know that our ﬁrst century, for all its remarkable milestones, was just a harbinger of our second.
Samuel J. Palmisano Chairman, President and Chief