Making the World Work BetterThe Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company
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Thomas J Watson Sr’s motto for IBM was THINK, and for more than a century, that one little word worked overtime. In Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company, journalists Kevin Maney, Steve Hamm, and Jeffrey M. O’Brien mark the Centennial of IBM’s founding by examining how IBM has distinctly contributed to the evolution of technology and the modern corporation over the past 100 years.
The authors offer a fresh analysis through interviews of many key figures, chronicling the Nobel Prize-winning work of the company’s research laboratories and uncovering rich archival material, including hundreds of vintage photographs and drawings. The book recounts the company’s missteps, as well as its successes. It captures moments of high drama – from the bet-the-business gamble on the legendary System/360 in the 1960s to the turnaround from the company’s near-death experience in the early 1990s.
The authors have shaped a narrative of discoveries, struggles, individual insights and lasting impact on technology, business and society. Taken together, their essays reveal a distinctive mindset and organizational culture, animated by a deeply held commitment to the hard work of progress. IBM engineers and scientists invented many of the building blocks of modern information technology, including the memory chip, the disk drive, the scanning tunneling microscope (essential to nanotechnology) and even new fields of mathematics. IBM brought the punch-card tabulator, the mainframe and the personal computer into the mainstream of business and modern life. IBM was the first large American company to pay all employees salaries rather than hourly wages, an early champion of hiring women and minorities and a pioneer of new approaches to doing business--with its model of the globally integrated enterprise. And it has had a lasting impact on the course of society from enabling the US Social Security System, to the space program, to airline reservations, modern banking and retail, to many of the ways our world today works.
The lessons for all businesses – indeed, all institutions – are powerful: To survive and succeed over a long period, you have to anticipate change and to be willing and able to continually transform. But while change happens, progress is deliberate. IBM – deliberately led by a pioneering culture and grounded in a set of core ideas – came into being, grew, thrived, nearly died, transformed itself… and is now charting a new path forward for its second century toward a perhaps surprising future on a planetary scale.
One hundred years ago, the company that would become IBM took its first steps into an unknown future. In Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company, journalists Kevin Maney, Steve Hamm and Jeffrey M. O’Brien tell a story of progress that illuminates, and transcends, the rich history of a single enterprise.
Through extensive research, they explore IBM’s impact on technology, on the evolving role of the modern corporation and on the way our world literally works. Most intriguingly, they uncover a set of compelling ideas whose greatest impact may lie not in the previous century, but in the next one—ideas with the power to shape a surprising future, and to change the way we think.
Foreword: Of Change and Progress
Chapter 1 Pioneering the Science of Information
Chapter 2 Reinventing the Modern Corporation
Chapter 3 Making the World Work Better
About the Authors
Kevin Maney was a reporter, editor and columnist at USA Today for 22 years and a contributing editor at Conde Nast Portfolio. He has been a contributor to Fortune, Wired, The Atlantic, NPR, ABC News and other outlets. Steve Hamm is a writer and videographer in IBM's corporate communications department. Previously, he was a journalist for 30 years, most recently at Business Week, where he was a senior writer in the technology section. Jeffrey O'Brien was a senior editor at Fortune from 2006-2009 and a senior editor at Wired from 1999-2006.
“IBM doesn’t just THINK, it thinks big. The story of these big ideas illustrates how 100 years of innovation have shaped the way we live and work today.”
--Kenneth Chenault, Chairman and CEO, American Express
“Making the World Work Better convincingly documents IBM’s enormous impact on business and the world. Its history provides vital lessons for organizations of all sizes, and IBM’s future promises to continue to innovate the way we work, and even think.”
--Henry Chesbrough, Executive Director, Center for Open Innovation, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
"The history of every great, enduring company includes a triumphant struggle to remain relevant in the marketplace without abandoning a core purpose and values. At 100, IBM is one of a handful of organizations with so much to teach us about this unique journey."
--Howard Schultz, Chairman, President and CEO, Starbucks
"Innovation, resilience, and great leadership are the key ingredients of the IBM story. Making the World Work Better tells that story exceptionally well. Ultimately, it reveals that IBM is not simply a technology company; it is a company of ideas and the future those ideas have created."
--John Hollar, President and CEO, Computer History Museum