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.

6 Ways To NOT Be Creative

Graphic credit:  Braid Creative

Graphic credit: Braid Creative

‘Uncreative’ – not having or involving imagination or original ideas

Everyone is creative, but maybe not all the time.  And every team and company has the potential of being remarkably innovative and creative, but may not always achieve that lofty goal.  Why not?  There are a lot of things that inhibit our potential to be creative and original.  Even the most committed ‘creatives’ may run into these obstacles from time to time, so it’s probably helpful to know what to avoid if you want to stay on a path of creativity and innovation.  So here are six ways to be uncreative and non-innovative.

1.  Have computer problems…anytime

I actually got the idea for this post over the weekend, and was looking forward to writing it up on Monday morning as I didn’t have a meeting scheduled until 11am.  However, lo and behold, since my computer had been shut down and sleeping for the past week (as I was on vacation), it decided to be ornery when I woke it up on Monday morning.  Nothing major, but enough of a hassle that I spent most of the morning calling the help desk, re-installing software, and re-booting my machine.  Needless to say, my time for a creative post was shot.  Any device that you may use for your creativity would be included here, so that may include mobile devices, network, etc.  Whatever time you may have set aside to work on something creative can easily be eaten up by dealing with computer problems.

2.  Never walk away from the screens


Graphic Credit: Russ Adcox

However, staying on the screens all the time is also a good way to be uncreative.  Note that I got my idea for this post over the weekend, when I was AWAY from the screens.  While there are a lot of really creative things you can do on the screens, particularly with all the innovative mobile apps that are available these days, a critical part of original thinking is to let your brain actually step away from focusing on the topic or problem at hand, so there can be connections made while you focus on something else…the proverbial light-bulb going off while you are walking in the park or riding a bike or doing something else.  If you’ve ever read Julia Cameron’s book, ‘The Artist’s Way’, each week focuses on a different aspect of nurturing creativity, and one of the weekly exercises she has you do is refrain from ALL external entertainment, which would include screens (televisions, computers, mobile devices), as well as reading newspapers, magazines, etc.  The idea is, you gain both creative time and fresh perspective if you refrain from wasting it on external entertainment – ah, instead of reading a novel or watching the latest Ted Talk on YouTube, perhaps you are creating your own instead.  So, to avoid being original like that, just stay on the screens!

3. ‘Eat that frog’….all the time

Graphic credit:  Brian Tracy

Graphic credit: Brian Tracy

Related to the above idea, if you focus on your task list all the time, that’s another good way to kill creativity.  And, if you are like most people, your task list may be endless.  You may have heard of the book by Brian Tracy called ‘Eat That Frog – 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating’.  The basic idea is that you try to do ‘least desired’ task or job first (aka ‘the frog’) so that the rest of your day can be ‘play time’.  While this is a great idea for getting those ‘ugh’ tasks crossed off the list, since the ‘frog’ task list could go on forever, it could also eat up all your creative time as well.  So, if you want to stop procrastinating and also stop being creative, just ‘eat that frog’ all the time!

4.  Keep it complicated!

Somewhat related to the ‘Eat That Frog’, if you over-analyze and avoid simplicity, that’s another good way to be UNCREATIVE.  Second-guessing yourself or over-thinking your idea is a good way to make it boring and lead you nowhere.  I once remember a project where I was working with several different work-streams who were responsible for managing their own work-streams.  Since this was early in my career when I still needed to ‘prove’ myself as a project manager, I was determined to make sure that every single task was in the plan.  After spending a few evenings trying to update and deal with a project plan that had more than a thousand line items in it, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the lesson of simplicity I learned.  There’s a quote by Charles Mingus that says ‘making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.’  So, keep it complicated to NOT be creative!

5.  Stay in a rut!….every day


Graphic Credit: Brookhill Women’s Blog

This is a great way to not be creative and stunt innovation – do the same thing, the same way, in the same place….all the time.  Since creativity involves a great deal of ‘thinking outside the box’, it requires a good regular dose of changing your perspective to gain new insights or new ways of thinking about things.  If you don’t ever break out of the mold of your regular routines or intentionally try to experience new things, it will be very difficult to gain ‘freshness’ in your thinking to innovate or be creative.  Sometimes it can be as simple as changing your location, like taking a walk outside, and sometimes it takes more conscious effort, like trying something you’ve never done before, talking to people you wouldn’t normally interact with, or attending an event you wouldn’t normally participate in.  So, if you don’t want to be original, just avoid all that and stay in your comfort zone!

6.  Listen to the critic – don’t be yourself!

Graphic Credit:  HarroJapan Blog

Graphic Credit: HarroJapan Blog

Last, but certainly not least is this gem – don’t be authentic.  You know the famous commercial that talks about ‘Think Different’?  Well, it’s never a popular thing to be non-comformist.  In Japan, there is a saying that goes like this –  “出る杭は打たれる。 Deru kui wa utareru.”, which translates to ‘the protruding stake (or nail) will be hammered down’.  In other words, if you stand out or do not conform, you will be criticized.  That is usually the case with the great creatives and innovative thinkers of this world – they experience a great deal of criticism and non-acceptance.  In the face of that type of criticism, it’s usually a lot easier to simply conform to what ‘everyone else’ is doing or thinking and just follow along.  Quite frequently, before we even reach that level of putting our ideas out there for external criticism, we have already encountered the ‘anti-creative survival mechanism’ built-in to each of us.  This mechanism is known as the ‘inner critic’, and it’s usually quite adept at keeping us very well-disconnected from our own inner voice out of fear.  You know the voice….it’s always telling you that you’re not good enough, creative enough, innovative enough, or everyone else is better or more original or more something, so why bother?  So, this is may be the best way to be un-creative – just keep listening to that critic and don’t be yourself!



– By Julie Yamamoto


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

3 Things You Never Knew About IBM Creativity – Games, Art, and Music

smarter ideaIn IBM’s 2010 Global CEO study of over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries, creativity was touted as being the most important leadership quality for success, outweighing even integrity and global thinking.

So how much creativity and innovation can the world’s 13th largest employer inspire?  Apparently, quite a lot, as the following list shows.  So here is today’s list of cool things you never knew about IBM creativity, focusing on Games, Art, and Music.

1. IBM and Serious Games

You may have heard of Zynga when it comes to games, but did you know that FastCompany listed IBM as one of the Top 10 Companies in Gaming due to our work in serious games?  IBM has been investing in serious games since 2000 and has made advances in performing key research, prototypes, and/or complete games in these five areas – technical training, leadership skill-building, marketing, talent on-boarding, and productivity building.  Watch the trailer below and learn more about IBM and Serious Games here.

2. IBM and Art

Image credit:  Hermitage Museum

Image credit: Hermitage Museum

Of course, there is a lot of very creative IBM advertising art to be found as the quick list below shows.  But there are a number of other ways that IBM has had a connection to art.  For example, in 1997, IBM built the online Hermitage Museum for Hermitage in Russia which was touted as the “World’s Best Online Museum” by National Geographic Traveler.   IBM was also a major collaborator on the Eternal Egypt project and website, with the goal of bringing to light more than 5000 years of Egyptian civilization to help preserve it for tourists, students and scholars.  More recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York worked with IBM to install a wireless sensor network to help preserve the works of art in its world-renowned, encyclopedic collection.  Works of art are very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, relative humidity, and other environmental conditions.  IBM’s sensor network is enabling the museum’s scientists to monitor and analyze the reaction of art objects to environmental changes that will help them to develop predictive models for art preservation more accurately.  Learn more about IBM and art here.

Other IBM Art Related

3. IBM and Music

IBM Orchestra in 1944 - courtesy of IBM Archives

IBM Orchestra in 1944 – courtesy of IBM Archives

IBM has a long history with music.  Did you know that there was even an official company song book, published in the 1930s, called Songs of the IBM?  It started in the earliest years of the company’s history with a 32 member employee band, which was followed by a variety of other employee musical groups — an orchestra, singing groups for men, for women, for men and women, even for children.  Soon, singing and instrumental performances spread to other IBM sites and groups, and many IBM meetings would start with employees singing various “fellowship songs”, such as “Ever Onward” (the IBM rally song).  However, IBM’s connection to music was just not limited to employee musical groups.  Much like IBM’s modern-day creativity often manifests itself in the form of leveraging technology to create something very cool like the world’s smallest movie made from atoms, there were early creative efforts to create music from mainframes as the stories below show.  Learn more about IBM and music here.



– By Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection


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.

Calling All Thinkers and Creators – Help Your City Get Smarter (#P4SC)


Are you a doer, thinker, problem solver, creator or dreamer? Help your city get smarter.


Giant Fish Sculptures Made from Plastic Bottles in Czech Republic

IBM is helping cities around the world use the vast amount of data, analytics, and information already available to fuel more effective solution ideas from citizens.  In turn, they are helping their city leaders transform their communities.
IBM’s new global People for Smarter Cities site is a place where residents can conduct meaningful online conversations and contribute original ideas about how to make their cities work smarter.

One idea that’s been contributed from Paris, France is for interactive trash bins that encourage Metro passengers to recycle their subway tickets instead of throwing them on the floor.  A little imagination and fun is helping keep the station clean.

Ready to change cities for the better? Join P4SC and start making a difference!  Share YOUR ideas and join the conversation on the site or on Twitter at #P4SC.



– Posted by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager The Greater IBM Connection

The Synthetic Gastronomist: Creative Cooking with IBM

In this piece published in The New Yorker, Gary Marcus shares what it was like to get a taste of the future: a remarkable Czech moussaka that was the end result of a collaboration between man  – chef James Briscione – and an IBM machine.

(Graphic, The New Yorker)

(Graphic, The New Yorker)

The as-yet unnamed computer relies as much on software models of the psychology of taste perception as it does on a database of recipes. Its goal is not to retrieve, Watson-like, information that is already known, but rather to discover something new. Read more.

-Posted by Regan Kelly

Your LinkedIn Profile and the Top 10 OVERused Corporate Buzzwords of 2012

by Cimla Seyhan,

buzzwords mapWith 2013 almost here, has refreshed its popular buzzwords analysis from previous years.

Do LinkedIn’s 187 million members still describe themselves as “creative” and “effective” professionals with “extensive experience”? Have the most overused words in LinkedIn Profiles change from last year’s analysis?

Find out last year’s MOST overused buzzword, and many more, broken down by country.

Greater IBMer Steve Hamilton is a NY Times Bestselling Author

by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection

Greater IBMer Steve Hamilton is a long-time IBMer, having reached his 29th year with the company this past June.  Steve works as an IBM Information Developer in Poughkeepsie, NY supporting both z/VM and DFSMS, and, like so many Greater IBMers, he has quite an interesting story to tell.  He is a New York Times bestselling author and two time Edgar award winner!  He’s one of only two authors in history (along with Ross Thomas) to win two major Edgar awards (Best First Novel, Best Novel), and he’s also either won or been nominated for every other major crime fiction award in America and the UK.  His books have been translated into fifteen languages.  To read more about Steve’s creative writing pursuit, check out the full IBM Creatives story here–>

When do you do at IBM today?  What’s a typical day for you?

I’m an Information Developer, supporting both z/VM and DFSMS.  My office is in Poughkeepsie, NY — although like a lot of people I do a fair amount of work remotely.  So I’ll actually drive down to the office two, sometimes three times a week.

Is there much writing involved in your work day and, if so, does it make you less inclined to write for yourself?

In what’s essentially a technical writing job, I’ll do a little bit of writing here and there, but I spend so much more of my time writing notes to people.  I feel like a professional e-mailer most days.  Either way, it doesn’t really affect the writing I do away from work.  In fact, I’ve found that being busy during the day (not too busy, but just enough), actually helps me keep it rolling when I get home.

What are some other IBM jobs you’ve held over your career here?

I’ve been in Information Development since I started in 1983 — although I’ve supported a lot of different products, both hardware and software.

What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?  (IBM or not)

Putting people on paddle-boats and showing them how to steer.  That wasn’t at IBM.

What made you decide to work as an IBMer and as a novelist simultaneously?

Well, I always knew that I wanted to get back to my own writing.  That’s a promise I made when I graduated from college and went out and got a sensible “real” job at IBM.  It took a little while to keep that promise to myself, because there’s certainly nobody else who’s going to make you do it.  But now that I have, it’s surprising how well I can manage both at the same time.  A big part of that is how great the people I work with at IBM have been — and I try to pay that back by being an ambassador for the company when I go out and do events around the country.

How do you make time to do that, with a full-time career and a family?

My wife is great about it, my two kids are great about it.  We just make it work.  If you’re doing something you really want to be doing, it’s a lot easier to find a way.

When are you most productive in the course of a 24 hour day?

Easy question!  After everyone else goes to bed!

Do you make yourself write something regularly?  Or do you write only when inspired, or some combination of approaches?

If you’re a professional writer, you write every day, whether you feel like it or not.  If it’s going well, you might get a lot more done.  But you have to do something every day if you’re going to get there.  I have a Lego brick by my workstation to remind me of that.  You make at least one brick every day.  That’s all you have to do.  A few months later, you’ll have a house built.

What sorts of time-management / self-management tricks can you share?  Or is it more of a mindset?

I think it’s more of a mindset and not so much a matter of finding any tricks.  It really goes back to that Lego brick and the commitment to doing something every day.  That’s the only way to make it happen.

Do you do anything in the way of training other writers, workshops, classes, etc?

You know, for me it was just a matter of joining a writing group and having that support to get me started — and that little external deadline that I’d have, every Thursday night in that library basement, knowing that they’d be waiting for me and expecting a new short story or novel chapter or whatever else.  Anything that gets you moving and keeps you moving is good.  It might be different for anyone else, but the basic idea is the same.  Get started and keep at it.

Who/ what do you read in general, and what are you reading right now?

I’ve always loved reading crime fiction, and there happen to be some great writers in the field right now.  You’ve probably heard of some of them (Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Harlan Coben…), but one of the best writers in any field is a guy named David Woodrell.  His stuff is just amazing.  As far as what I’m reading right now?  It’s a crazy book called Kraken by China Mieville.

Do you read with an eye toward pleasure only, or do you seek out books you believe have the potential to improve your own writing?

I read the stuff I love reading, and I don’t even think about improving my own writing.  That sounds way too conscientious to me.

How has the rise of social media changed the way you interact with your readers?

It’s a huge part of the game right now.  The publishing industry is really suffering, but the one thing you’ve got going for you now is direct contact with a lot of readers at once.  I’ve got a website (, I send out periodic newsletters, and of course I’m on Facebook ( every day.

Give us a piece of advice you’d share with an aspiring writer (or any other kind of artist), something you wish you’d known earlier.

If you ever made a promise to yourself like I did, then it’s not too late to start.  You can do that today.  As soon as you get home from work.  I started writing A Cold Day in Paradise on January 6th, 1997.  It was an ordinary winter night and I could have done a thousand other things, but I sat down and wrote maybe 500 words.  The next night, I wrote 500 more.  It’s fifteen years later and a lot of amazing things have happened, but it all goes back to that one night.  It really can be that simple.