Five years ago, a team made up of scientists from IBM, several universities and two US national laboratories embarked on a great quest: to design a computer chip inspired by the function, low-power, and compact size of the human brain. In the face of tremendous technical unknowns, our goal is now within reach.This was no easy journey. As the principal investigator, I had to coordinate the activities of scientists with a wide variety of skills and expertise, both within IBM and at the other organizations that collaborated with us. We had to achieve a series of significant scientific breakthroughs in a virtually uncharted territory under the constraints of a relatively short deadline and limited funds.
The experience has taught me valuable management lessons that could be useful to others. In the coming years, it seems likely that organizations of all kinds will more frequently collaborate with one another, that research and other aspects of business will globalize even more, and that new paths to innovation will require people with a wide variety of disciplines to work together to combat uncertainty while harnessing potential. Over the weekend, the New York Times published a guest essay by me in its Preoccupations column.
Today marks the beginning of the next phase of IBM’sSmarter Cities Challenge competitive grants program, which deploys teams of our top talent to perform pro bono problem solving for cities and municipal regions worldwide. We’re building on the success of the program’s first three years, during which 600 IBM experts on six-person teams provided strategic and practical advice to 100 cities. In all, IBMers provided more than 100,000 hours of business and technical expertise through this game-changing program that began in the company’s 100th year.
Valued at USD $400,000 each, the three-week Smarter Cities Challenge engagements have helped cities address key challenges in the areas of economic development; water, energy and environment; health and social services; transportation; and public safety. During the course of forming partnerships with influencers and constituencies from government, citizen groups, businesses and nonprofits, we have gathered diverse perspectives on the causes and potential solutions to a variety of urban challenges. While each city is unique, our work has enabled us to identify common characteristics and themes that have improved the subsequent effectiveness of our teams.
We’re excited about this next phase of the Smarter Cities Challenge, through which we will engage more deeply with our municipal clients – committing to the long haul to manage challenges that extend beyond the limits of mayoral terms of office; intensifying our focus on helping newly-elected city leaders get off to good starts to making their cities smarter; and extending our reach to help municipalities navigate the complexities of financing progressive programs and engaging their citizens.
Read the press release to learn how past Smarter Cities Challenge grant recipients have implemented our recommendations to improve the lives of their citizens.
Jen Crozier is Vice President, IBM Global Citizenship Initiatives.
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