IBM's chief innovator peers into the 21st century

Bernard Meyerson, IBM's vice president for innovation, connects the company's first 100 years to where IBM is headed.

Bernard Meyerson is IBM’s vice president for innovation. He also is responsible for the IBM Academy, a self-governed organization of about 1,000 senior technical leaders from across the company. In 2001 Meyerson was appointed chief technologist of IBM’s Technology Group, and in 2003 he assumed responsibility for IBM’s global semiconductor research efforts. Meyerson's innovation efforts have earned him many awards including “Inventor of the Year” by the New York State Legislature in 1998, “Distinguished Inventor of the Year” by the IP Law Association and the Patent and Trademark office in 1999, and “Inventor of the Year” by the New York State Intellectual Property Lawyers Association in 2008.

To mark IBM’s centennial year, he spoke with Associate Editor David Hubler about innovation and how it will shape the future. Here are some excerpts.

WT: What is it about IBM that has made it so successful for so long?

Meyerson: It’s cultural not just technical. There’s a very personal aspect to the IBM culture that still make it a remarkable place to work. Even as a very junior person 30 years ago, I was able to reach out to the most senior people and get input from them. You can’t just order someone to be an innovator. But here you wind up becoming part of a culture where there are such amazingly bright people that [innovation] is contagious. We actually had to put pens and paper in the cafeteria because these “jam sessions” would get going and it’s difficult to write on napkins. The really great stuff comes not only from an “Aha!” moment but from sitting around the table with 17 people.

WT: What is IBM doing to ensure that its second century will be as successful as its first?

Meyerson: We’re going from being in the typical situation historically of taking a lot of data, storing it and then acting upon it reactively to a company now that is building out very highly sophisticated models of what the future looks like and acting proactively so as to be able to improve the future rather than be a victim of it. That is an extraordinary change.

WT: How is this being done?

Meyerson: This has been enabled by the ability to take data in at a massive rate, organize it effectively and then use it not just to understand the past but, more importantly, to predict and improve the future.

WT: Can you give us an example of the value of this work?

Meyerson: If we examine the major traffic patterns in a global city and we actually build models saying that if at this time of day this many cars at a place are going at this velocity, and we look at how the remainder of the day evolves, we can build a model that tells you what the traffic will look like 20 minutes from now based on what you see at this moment. That tells us whether there will or won’t be a traffic jam at a specific location and we can then alter the flow of traffic to prevent that jam from ever occurring.

WT: Among IBM’s best known new innovations is Watson, the sophisticated computer that went on the TV quiz show “Jeopardy.” What was that all about?

Meyerson: The notion of a natural Q&A with an automated entity like the Watson machine is something that was science fiction just 15 years ago. The idea that you can actually do that in natural language with puns, that is a foundational shift. You’ve basically taken a combination of natural language interaction with artificial intelligence and data mining and rolled it all up into something that could be a game changer. We picked “Jeopardy” because it has a very arcane structure; it has very unusual questions that might have puns in them. Watson is not a piece of hardware or a piece of software. It is an incredibly innovative solution to a problem that people have been working on for 50 years.

WT: What innovation is on the drawing board for the next decade or two?

Meyerson: Big data. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for the scientific and technical business communities. The idea is to be able to extract knowledge from vast amounts of unstructured data from a multitude of sources, including social media. You could basically spot a pandemic coming because you’ll see an uptick in the number of calls on social media for treatment of a particular symptom. Things like that are breakthrough [technology] – and it’s just starting. It’s not science fiction, it’s science.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.