In its most recent fiscal year, IBM spent $1.4 billion on promotion and advertising, most of it touting IBM's AI offering Watson. A typical Watson ad claims that it "works everywhere" and is "the ideal AI...that scales across your business, wherever your data lives, working with all your other AI."
When viewing these ads, I can help but think of a once-popular way to shut down bar-room blowhards and knows-it-all: "if you're so smart, why ain't you rich?" That's applicable to IBM because despite the company's unlimited access to Watson for nearly a decade, IBM's stock has seriously underperformed.
Never mind. I'll answer for you. Since Ginni Rometty took over as IBM's CEO in 2012, the company has embraced and accelerate three cosmically dopey management fads that have dumbed the company's once-legendary productivity down the proverbial drain:
1. Open Plan Offices
IBM's shift to open plan offices was already well underway when Rometty took charge, but it's been under her tenure that the transformation was completed. An image search on "IBM office interior" reveals hundreds of photos showing how thoroughly the company has embraced this type of office design.
However, while undeniably photogenic, open plan offices have turned out to be productivity disasters, because they're noisy, visually distracting, unhealthy, and encourage sexism. According to Harvard, open plan offices reduce rather than increase collaboration, which was the reason IBM embraced the concept.
2. Cancelling Work-From-Home
Numerous peer-reviewed studies have revealed that work-from-home makes employees more productive than any other design concept. (Furthermore, costing nothing makes it infinitely cheaper than renting floor space.) With Email, texting, Skype and Slack, being in a centralized office doesn't add much, if any, value.
IBM was once a world leader in telecommuting (as it then was called), with 40% of its workforce thus deployed. In 2013, Yahoo cancelled work-from-home for most of its workers as a way to "build more synergy," an idea that apparently appealed to Rometty, who followed suit in 2017. Because it worked SO well for Yahoo, I guess.
3. Youthenizing the Workforce
Arguably the silliest management fad of the past decade is hiring more millennials because they're "digital natives" who have "grown up with access to cutting-edge technology." Well, according to a massive class-action lawsuit, IBM under Rometty embraced this notion big time by pushing older workers out the door as fast as they can. (IBM denies this, naturally.)
If true, what's truly ridiculous about Rometty's workforce strategy is that most of IBM's older employees have worked at IBM for most of their lives, which means they've been exposed to far, far more "cutting-edge technology" than anybody who merely grew up using commercially-available tech.
To summarize, under Rometty, IBM has 1) fully embraced the productivity toilet that is the open plan office, 2) eschewed the massive productivity boost of widespread telecommuting, and 3) replaced its most experienced and tech-savvy employees with fresh-out-of-college tinder-swipers.
Hey, Watson may be smart but apparently not smart enough to overcome gross management cluelessness.