IBM did what? (…and the brilliant sales lesson behind it)

By October 24, 2015Creativity

I’m not sure which fact blows my mind more. Is it that IBM just published a cookbook? (And it’s very much not some sort of gimmick or novelty. It’s serious and written to compete with all the other cookbooks out there!) Or the fact that that IBM now generates revenue via their very own food truck? Or is it the fact that the IBM project project lead has multiple facial piercings?

The IBM Guy

The IBM Guy

You might be familiar with Watson. It’s the IBM computer that beat all the Jeopardy! champs and is being used extensively in cancer research and a host of other push-the-envelope applications.

I so clearly remember my mom, back in the 80s, scoffing at PCs. “So now I can buy a machine for $4,500 whose best use is storing all my recipes???!!!” Well, with Watson, it’s a bit more than that.

It’s astounding creativity using leading edge technology to advance standards of living.

From the book’s description:

In Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson, IBM’s unprecedented technology and ICE’s [Institute of Culinary Education] culinary experts present more than 65 original recipes exploding with irresistible new flavors. Together, they have carefully crafted, evaluated and perfected each of these dishes for “pleasantness” (superb taste), “surprise” (innovativeness) and a “synergy” of mouthwatering ingredients that will delight any food lover.”

ibmFoodTruck

The IBM Food Truck

Let that roll around in your head for a bit… In essence, these folks fed a huge number of proven-great recipes (including the chemical properties of the ingredients) into Watson. Based on the data, Watson then churned out all sorts of suggestions based on “this stuff should go well together.” The human chefs took those suggestions, tweaked them a bit – mostly varying the amounts of this, that or the other – and produced some amazing dishes.

First thing I’m going to try is a cocktail that includes bourbon (of course), apple juice, ginger, orange peel, lemon grass and fried chicken!

So what’s the sales leadership lesson here? Obviously it’s about creativity. It’s about:

  1. Taking the stuff you sell…
  2. Combining it with an as-yet totally unrelated activity…
  3. Having lots of deep discussions with folks who have expertise in that as-yet totally unrelated activity…
  4. And producing surprising, delightful and lucrative results

Also… I don’t know about you, but when I think about IBM, I think of stiff corporate types wearing white shirts, blue suits and wing tip shoes. Facial piercings??? Haute cuisine??? Not so much. (And in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of those “stiff corporate types wearing white shirts, blue suits and wing tip shoes” for 15 years!) This cookbook is as much a marketing campaign as it is a leading edge application of some the most advanced technology on the planet.

To repeat a phrase I used earlier, “astounding creativity!” Or to use a couple of tired clich├ęs, “out of the box thinking on steroids.”

Follow that 4-step process. It’s not that hard, really. And it’s great marketing. And it’s fun. And it’s lucrative!


And finally… Thank you, Jill! You got me yet another surprisingly, delightfully, appropriate birthday present!

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