It’s to encourage collaboration and innovation within IBM
IBM has been using a Kickstarter-type method of crowdfunding, and it’s been so successful that the company is currently preparing its fourth effort.
IBM calls this enterprise crowdfunding, where it happens internally and is not open to the public. It was put in place to encourage IBM employees across the globe to innovate, and many internal departments have collaborated to create projects. Proposals have ranged from 3D printers to setting up a disc golf course.
IBM tested the crowdfunding technique in the third quarter of 2012, where 500 Watson Research Center employees were each given $100 to invest in proposals. IBM employees and investors could access the statistics of each project — such as the funding goals and amount funded at that point (much like Kickstarter) — through internal social software.
The results showed that about 46 percent of the employees involved actually participated by investing, viewing projects, volunteering to participate in projects, etc.
IBM Research member Michael Muller said that other testing beyond that was even more successful. In a later crowdfunding effort at IBM, which involved an IT department and a research center in California, participation was high and there were “dozens” of funded projects. Some even reached as high as $35,000. It also showed heightened collaboration, with as many as eight departments working together on a project.
But crowdfunding does have its limitations, such as government regulations and human imagination, according to crowdfunding author Daryl Montgomery. Crowdfunding also takes a lot of work; you can’t just throw an idea out there and watch the money roll in. You have to reach out to contacts, talk to the community most interested in the topic, and invest in marketing the idea through videos, presentations, etc.
However, Muller believes IBM is the first to conduct internal crowdfunding efforts, and says it has had a positive effect on the company. In fact, he said employees participating in the crowdfunding programs liked that they were able to seek peers for funding rather than looking to expense controls, and that they were able to propose projects that improve corporate culture and staff morale.
Source: Network World – Tiffany Kaiser – September 4, 2013