Why IBM’s Ban of Uber Was the Wrong Move

With almost 400,000 employees worldwide and holding more patents than any other U.S. based tech company, IBM is one of the most recognized brands in business innovation. In 1964, IBM solidified its place in the tech industry, producing approximately 70% of all computers, but has struggled in recent years due to missing a key technology shift in an increasingly mobile and online business environment. Though IBM has made strides to keep up with the times by shedding low-margin hardware products and re-inventing itself as a business technology solutions provider, sometimes even those in the business of innovation can fall victim to the status quo.

IBM Bans Uber. Earlier this year, IBM issued a firm-wide ban on reimbursement for use of Uber and other ride-sharing services over safety and security concerns, noting that such services might carry inadequate insurance, fail to conduct background checks on drivers and were even illegal in some cities.

IBM’s ban on ride-sharing services did not sit well with Max Black, a global business consultant with the company and early adopter of Uber rides for business travel. He posted a petition on IBM’s internal social network, arguing that Uber saved IBM money, improved accountability and was not a safety risk.  His final point struck a major chord with IBM’s top brass: “We are being hypocritical…IBM is in the business of preaching mobility transformation to its clients, but we are effectively outlawing for our employees one of the best examples of mobile innovations.”

Within hours, hundreds of comments from fellow co-workers flooded in, expressing their unanimous support for IBM to lift the ban on Uber. The result: 16 hours later, head of HR and senior VP Diane Gherson reversed the ban on ride-sharing services.

The real lesson? Don’t let the status quo impede innovative thinking.  Accept that complacency is a business killer and be open-minded when looking at new processes, procedures and business tools that challenge the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality.

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