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Big Blue Brainstorm

IBM is putting some 100,000 heads together for an online Innovation Jam

The collective wisdom of crowds depends on your crowd, and IBM (IBM ) has one of the sharpest crowds around. CEO Samuel J. Palmisano knows this, and he wants to leverage it. He is pulling people together for the online equivalent of a town meeting. His hope: The opinions of some 100,000 minds will lead to catalytic innovations so powerful they will transform industries, alter human behavior, and lead to new businesses for IBM. He calls the project an Innovation Jam.

Jams are nothing new at IBM. The company used these online brainstorming sessions to mine for new business opportunities in 2001, to exchange ideas about good management in 2002, and to discuss IBM values in 2003. But the current jam is the biggest ever and the first to go open source. IBM is inviting clients, consultants, and employees' family members to tinker with its technologies in pursuit of new ideas. IBM won't own any of the nuggets that emerge during the two 72-hour sessions -- they are fair game for anyone who logs on.