IBM Computer Creativity: 3 Things You Never Knew – Movies, Cooking, Books

Image Credit:  Lord of the Rings movie trilogy

Image Credit: Lord of the Rings movie trilogy

This is Part 2 of the IBM Creativity Series – Part 1 covered 3 Things You Never Knew About IBM Creativity – Games, Art, and Music. This post will cover 3 things you never knew about IBM computer creativity.

In addition to IBM driving innovation and creativity for 102 years, as IBM CEO Ginni Rometty recently shared, IBM computers have also long been used to help spur the creative process.  Here are few of the more notable examples of how IBM computers and technology played a critical part in the creative process.

Category 1 (Movies):  

Lord of The Rings Trilogy:  IBM supplied digital effects facility Weta Digital, Ltd., with 150 IBM® IntelliStation® workstations, running Linux®, for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Weta created effects, from digital horses to Gollum, a character in the series.  Weta and its sister company, Weta Workshop, won two Oscars for their digital effects work on the first “Lord of The Rings” trilogy.  To learn more:

Image Credit:  IMDb

Image Credit: IMDb

Despicable Me:  IBM provided an iDataPlex system to Illumination Entertainment to help it meet the massive production requirements involved in creating the computer-animated 3-D feature film, “Despicable Me”, released in 2010.  The animation process to produce the film generated 142 terabytes of data — an amount roughly equivalent to the traffic generated by over 118 million active MySpace users or 250,000 streams of 25 million songs.  The iDataPlex solution also included a water-cooled door that allows the system to run with no air conditioning required, saving up to 40% of the power used in typical server configurations for this type of production process.  To learn more:

Image Credit:  Fast Company (Italian grilled lobster, with a complex set of pairings including salt, pepper, saffron, green olives, tomato, pumpkin, mint, oregano, white wine, water, macaroni, orange juice, orange, bacon, and oil. )

Image Credit: Fast Company (Italian grilled lobster, with a complex set of pairings including salt, pepper, saffron, green olives, tomato, pumpkin, mint, oregano, white wine, water, macaroni, orange juice, orange, bacon, and oil. )

Category 2 (Cooking):  When you think of the creative things that humans do, cooking comes to mind as one creative outlet that appeals to many.  After winning at chess and Jeopardy, taking on large databases of information to cook up something creative for dinner seems like a logical step.  After all, while most chefs may only consider pairings of hundreds of different ingredients for the evening meal, there are probably unlimited possibilities of pairings that might taste good.  So, the IBM flavorbot is looking to put together underrated highly flavorful ingredients, unusual but tasty flavor pairings, and bring them all together into whole recipes.  To generate leads, the flavorbot looks at three databases of information – recipe index, hedonic psychophysics (quantification of what flavors people like at the molecular level), and chemoinformatics (connecting what foods the molecular flavor is actually in).  To learn more, see the links below:

Category 3 (Books):  Ever heard of “Abechamycin”?  It’s not a new antibiotic….but it may be one day.  At Pfizer in 1956, an IBM 702 helped create a 198-page, 42,000 word book of potential chemical names as a way of spurring and accelerating the naming process for the many new drugs the firm introduced on an annual basis.  Learn more.



– By Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection, and Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist


The October 2013 theme for The Greater IBM Connection is ”creativity and innovation”, and The Greater IBM Connection will be sharing various tips, tools, and resources on this topic.

Information in Modern Societies = Inspiration to Author/Greater IBMer Dr. James Cortada

Greater IBMer, author and thought leader Dr. James Cortada is no newcomer to the world of developing, writing, and publishing books. An IBM employee of nearly 40 years now, he’s recently published his latest, “The Digital Flood: The Diffusion of Information Technology Across the U.S., Europe, and Asia” – and it’s his 66th book.

Read more about Dr. Cortada and how his IBM career helped him in developing his dozens of books on the history of information technologies and business management.

Dr. James W. Cortada

The Greater IBM Connection: How long have you been an IBMer?

Dr. Cortada: 38 years.

What is your role today – what are some of your more interesting duties? 

I work in the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), doing research on contemporary business problems and advising governments on how to improve their operations.

I also support client teams selling to government agencies when they need thought leadership materials.

How did you come to join IBM?

I was recruited into sales by two IBM executives in the 1970s.

What earlier roles have helped to prepare you for the work you’re doing now? 

I have consulted to governments all over the world, sold software and hardware, and learned to run sales organizations, all of which taught me about the role of IT and managing its use in business terms.

Is your IBM work related to your writing? 

They are related, because my writing is about how IT is used by individuals, companies, governments, by industry and by country. My IBM experience gives me the insight to know what issues to explore that are relevant to our clients.

Have you written for pleasure all your life? How did you begin?

I have written for pleasure all my life; I learned to do it first as a reporter for a newspaper, later as a stringer for AP, then through the formal rigors of graduate training.

When did you begin writing books?

I published my first book when I was 20, a short thing about the American Civil War in my hometown in Virginia.

That was 65 books ago.

What spurred you to write a book – what was the impetus that got you started?

I have been writing about the history and management of IT since about 1978, always about topics that I wished someone else would write about, but did not.

So I did.

 Buy the book at

Cover of The Digital Flood

Available now

How do you choose the subjects to explore? Can you explain the process?

I pick topics by listening to what clients and experts are concerned with and by what experts are not willing or able to take on.

For example, European economists and historians like to write more about their home country than about Europe as a whole. Clients want to understand Europe as a whole rather than just about one country.

I also build on what I learned from prior projects to determine what questions to explore and on what skills I have. I am fortunate to be able to work in multiple languages, which makes writing a global history easier.

IBMers work a lot of hours; how do you make the time to write?

This is like jogging, it is a discipline. Every Saturday and Sunday morning I write/study/research between 6 and 8:30 AM, 4 weeks a month, 11 months a year, 10 years each decade. That means there is enough time to write and after a while you get quite efficient at it so the productivity increases.

Do you write regularly? And if so, when and where?

Only on weekends and in my home office, at the same desk so that my mind mentally gets switched fast to the writing zone.

What other hobbies do you have?

Hiking and camping, and I also collect old books on information technologies, tabulators, computers and, of course, everything I can get my hands on regarding the history of IBM and its competitors.  I have a very cool collection of publications about IBM from all over the world.

Does your creativity emerge in any other ways, do you paint, photograph, play music, etc.?

No time to do those things as IBM, family, community activities, and writing consumer all my waking hours.

What does your future in writing hold? What’s next? 

Three books: what the history of 150 years of IT teaches management about business; a short account of how management has changed in the last 30 years and where it is going; the first history of the role of information in the United States, 1875-Present.


Get “The Digital Flood

Follow James Cortada on Twitter

James Cortada’s page on Amazon

Five Things You Should Stop Doing – Your To-Ignore List

by Dorie Clark, Harvard Business Review

Author Dorie Clark

Author Dorie Clark

Inspired by HBR blogger Peter Bregman’s idea of creating a “to ignore” list , says author Dorie Clark, she came up with a similar one: and here are the activities that we all need to STOP – completely, fully, cold turkey stop – from now on.

Greater IBM, what do you plan to stop doing? And how are you going to use all that extra time?


About the author

Dorie Clark is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. She is the author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @dorieclark.

Do You Pass This Key Leadership Test?

The stakes are high, and the pressure is on. Here’s how great bosses respond in challenging situations.

by Jeff Haden, Inc.

It happens every time. You occasionally face a problem or challenge so big, so important, so critical that it requires your total focus, and that’s when one of your employees is most likely to feel he must talk to you–right now.

Tell me I’m wrong.

(Didn’t think so.)

business woman doing work on her phoneFor example, say you own a manufacturing facility. A truckload of parts just arrived. As pallets are getting unloaded, your quality team performs random sample inspections and determines the defect rate is too high.

Normally, you would reject the shipment, but you desperately need the parts to meet a critical ship date for your biggest customer. You can sort in-house, but that means pulling employees off other work so you can go all hands on deck.

Should you eat the cost and suffer delays on other jobs so you can satisfy your biggest customer, or do you reject the shipment and miss that customer’s ship date? The clock is ticking, and employees are waiting.

So you sit staring at your desk, knowing you have about 20 minutes to make a decision, and knowing that no matter what you decide, you’re kinda screwed. In walks an employee who says, “I really need to talk to you.”

Not now, you think, and you automatically start to say, “Can I get with you a little later?” but you look up and see he’s really upset.

That pause allows him to keep talking. “I call the babysitter every day at lunch to make sure she gets my son home safe from preschool. But this week our lunch break got moved to a different time, so now that doesn’t work. My supervisor won’t let me leave the line to make calls, and that means I have to sit and worry for an hour until I go on break…”

Maybe you empathize. Or maybe you think it’s pretty silly that he doesn’t trust his babysitter (if he feels like he needs to call every day, maybe he needs a new babysitter).

However you feel about his problem, right now you have your own problem to deal with: deciding whether you should eat thousands of dollars in cost or whether you should upset your biggest customer.

And that’s when you take a key leadership test: Can you approach the employee’s problem as if it was just as important as the problem you face? Because it is: To him, his issue is just as important.

Give his problem the attention and consideration he feels it deserves, and you pass. Assume your issue is more important and brush him aside, and you fail.

To a shop-floor employee, a change in break schedules, an interpersonal problem with team members, not having the proper tools, etc., can seem like major issues. To you, losing a major customer or incurring thousands in additional expense is a major issue.

You have very different points of view, and both of you are right.

Great leaders treat an employee issue, no matter how “small,” as a major issue. Great leaders give employee concerns the same attention they give business-critical concerns.

When an employee comes to you with a problem, no matter how minor it may seem to you, to that employee it’s a major issue. Whether you can view a problem from the employee’s perspective, and not just from your own, is a key leadership test great leaders pass with flying colors.


About the author:

Author Jeff Haden

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry from forklift driver to manager of a 250-employee book plant. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest innovators and leaders he knows in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list.  @jeff_haden


TRUST: A Personal IBM Story


trŭst  n.
1. Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.
2. Something committed into the care of another; charge.

Trust is perhaps the single most empowering — and sometimes the most paralyzing quality in our relationships with ourselves and with each other in life and work. Issues of trust are at the core of our most pressing problems on almost any front and today there are plenty of them.

I’m not sure I fully appreciated how much I learned about trust in my 20+ years at IBM. It is hard for me to think about the notion of trust without remembering its various influences during those years.

One illustrative story immediately comes to mind. It was an unexpected acknowledgment that was revealed in one of the IBM stories I included in my book, Putting Our Differences to Work. The interview was with one of my former managers at IBM. He was a kind of wild and crazy guy with a bowtie. He was intense, spirited, and knew the business down to the tiniest detail. He was also fun, suspect of your every move and intention, and operated with a contentious style with everyone. Working with him, taught me how to play hardball. After leaving IBM, he became a successful entrepreneur, working with very different people. Most spoke a different language which he didn’t understand. So he had to learn to trust. In his own words… 

“As an IBM manager,” Chuck told me, “there was never an assumed trust on my part. As an employee, you had to earn it from me—and because I was the manager, I expected people to come to me. In my entire IBM career, I was incapable of just letting people go—creating a common understanding of our mission and then allowing people to do their best. I always had to be in control—or wanted more control—or thought my ideas were better. In my business today, I have had to trust people, because I can’t talk about what I want or always be with them with several jobs going at one time. Maybe the change has come from a combination of things. I’ve mellowed. I’ve learned people work best if given some freedom. Also, my employees have been great teachers. They taught me to trust.”


“He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.”
— Lao Tzu

What I know for sure is that in my life TRUST in relationships has empowered me to do things I imagined were possible.  It improves business, increases the possibilities for innovation, and feels real good inside. How about you?

Do you have a story to share?


A-DK-SEPT17-1 Debbe Kennedy
Contributing author
Greater IBM Connection Blog
Co-Founder, GIBM Women’s
International Network for

Founder, President & CEO
Global Dialogue Center and
Leadership Solutions Companies
Putting Our Differences to Work
Video Book Review by futurist Joel A. Barker
IBMer 1970 – 1991 L.A.; Anchorage; Seattle; San Francisco
Twitter: @debbekennedy   @onlinedialogues

“I know nothing stays the same…”

As we stand together at the threshold of both crisis and opportunity, everything around us is calling for all of us to CHANGE…to prove once again we can “change our spots.”
Are you ready?

The notion gives me flashbacks

When I first started in my own business, after a wonderfully rewarding leadership career with IBM for 20+ years, it was a big, GIANT change—one I was excited about; one IBM had prepared me to take on; one I had dreamed about, but when it actually came, there were sure some scary moments of uncertainty and doubt. Ever had that experience yourself when you dared to break away from the familiar?

There was a poignant moment in my transition that has stayed with me…
In the very first job I landed with my new company, I spent a wonderful morning with a room full of women health care leaders. They were in the process of reinventing themselves as a leadership team to move into major changes in their organization. We had a warm, honest and meaningful exchange together—it was just one of those very special occasions when everything worked.

At the end of the session, one of the women, named Ruth, a senior manager at a major hospital, slipped a piece of paper in my hand. She said, “Thank you for this time with us. I wrote a poem while you were presenting to express what happened for me.”

All these years, I cherished her poem and called upon it many times for inspiration. I’ve always wished she had known how meaningful the message was to me at the time. I never saw her again. …but now, I get to pass it on to you…a kind of “family heirloom” to share with you in my Greater IBM friends. Take good care of it and hopefully, you too can pass it along some time:

by Ruth B.

Lonely words
lost in a barrage,
suddenly become
no longer lonely
but more important
than any gone before.

“I need to change,
but can I?
Will I?
Do I dare?”
What will become of the
treasured past, the familiar
sameness of my life?

I will change
because I want to be as good as I can
I want to leave my signature
though invisible
on others’ lives
so that when
my career ends
will begin.

My biggest lesson from this poem was learned in writing this post. In reflection I can see a kind of miracle happened.  When my career ended at IBM, others did begin theirs…and new doors opened in my life. I took with me 21 years of knowledge and experience that shaped a new future. The BIG surprise is that all the years of hard work in growing my company would prepare me to unexpectedly reunite with the company and people I loved years later at Greater IBM. Nice!

“I know nothing stays the same…
…it will be coming around again.”
—Carly Simon

What poignant moments of transition have inspired YOU?


DebbekennedyDebbe Kennedy
Contributing Author
Greater IBM Connection
Founder, President & CEO
Global Dialogue Center and
Leadership Solutions Cos.
author, Putting Our Differences to Work
Video Book Review by futurist Joel Barker
IBMer 1970 – 1991 L.A.; Anchorage; Seattle; San Francisco

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IT’S A NEW DAY!: Renewing Ourselves; Changing the World
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Learn more and register…or visit Greater IBM Women’s
International Network for Leadership (GIBM-WIN-L) on

SMARTER: The Next Great Opportunity

DkistockeyesmI see it clearly. Vision. Courage. Always thinking an idea ahead. This was one of the first lessons I learned at IBM many years ago. It was taught to us, refined, honed, renewed, revitalized and called upon through periods of change, big and small — a second-nature for an IBMer. This is how I recall it. Do you?

As the current economic crisis began to unfold in October 2008, I wrote about this quality of "thinking an idea ahead" in a blog post, ECONOMY: The Next Great Opportunity-WHAT TO DO, telling the story of being introduced to the concept at "new employee orientation" at IBM. I told how this quality saved my business some years back and shared "what you can do" ideas. What I remember most about the story that has inspired me all these years was that thinking an idea ahead prepares you to be ready for that next great opportunity.

Last week, Sam Palmisano, IBM’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, took this deeply rooted quality of thinking an idea ahead to a whole new level for the twenty-first century, when he invited all of us and the entire world, into a new bold vision of "A SMARTER PLANET: The Next Leadership Agenda" in his address to the Council on Foreign Relations in NYC on November 6. "…a period of discontinuity is, for those with courage and vision, a period of opportunity."

He defined current realities for leaders: "Our political leaders aren’t the only ones who’ve been handed a mandate for change. Leaders of businesses and institutions everywhere confront a unique opportunity to transform the way the world works."

He painted a vivid picture of a SMARTER PLANET: One that instrumented, interconnected and intelligent with abundantly available, low cost technology solving our most pressing problems around the world. The inspiring examples prove that the time for change has truly come!

He called for new leadership qualities: "There is much serious work ahead of us, as leaders and as citizens," he told us. "Together, we have to consciously infuse intelligence into our decision-making and management systems…not just infuse our processes with more speed and capacity. I believe  we will see new leaders emerge who win not by surviving the storm, but by changing the game."

As I wrote in my book, Putting Our Differences to Work: The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership, and High Performance, the word leader has a Germanic origin meaning to "find a new path. There is a constant stream of achievements rising up from individuals and organizations across the world finding the new paths we need. Our part is recognizing that we have to fundamentally change the way each one of us think, behave, and operate as leaders and innovators to reap the benefits of the globally integrated, interconnected world. The next great opportunity is ours to own.

Are you ready?
I am. I want to be one of those leaders. I want to one who helps change the game, don’t you?

Ignite your passions, watch these SMARTER PLANET videos on YouTube:

Proudly BLUE,


Dkdesk1008Debbe Kennedy
Contributing Author
Greater IBM Connection
Founder, President & CEO
Global Dialogue Center and
Leadership Solutions Companies

author, Putting Our Differences to Work

IBMer 1970 – 1991 L.A.; Anchorage; Seattle; San Francisco