Management Hall of Fame
Most Respected Management Gurus

Tom Watson (Thomas J. Watson, Sr.) - (1874 -1956) - IBM - International Business Machines

  • "Business is a game, the greatest game in the world if you know how to play it." (Thomas J. Watson, Sr.)
    "World Peace through world trade." (Thomas J. Watson, Sr.)

Thomas J. Watson, Sr. is reported to have made the unfortunately inaccurate prediction, "I think that there may be a world market for possibly five computers." But his misjudgment didn't prevent him from building the industrial and technological titan IBM. He learned his trade under John Patterson, who taught him about commerce and social responsibility. When Watson was sacked by Patterson after an argument, he took with him progressive ideas about corporate culture and the working environment, and a small sign that said "THINK!" At Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co., the company that eventually became IBM, he engineered a corporate transformation, pumping money into research and development, nurturing exciting new technologies, and galvanizing the sales force. Thomas J. Watson, champion of employee satisfaction.

His Wok

  • 1893 Sells musical instruments.
  • 1898 Joins the National Cash Register Company.
  • 1914 Joins Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co. Revenues $4 million.
  • 1924 Company's name changed to International Business Machines Corp.
  • 1944 IBM builds world's first large-scale computer.
  • 1946 IBM revenues $115 million.
  • 1952 IBM manufactures world's first commercially available computer, the 701.

Thomas J. Watson, Sr. achieved great things at IBM. He managed the growth of a small company with a promising technology into a billion-dollar company with a technology that changed the world. The history of computing is not just about the scientists and inventors. It is also about the men who manage creativity and innovation, and who help turn the fantastic dreams of scientists into commercial reality. Watson was one such man. He cajoled, he improved, he inspired. Many of his methods he owed to his inspirational mentor, John Patterson at NCR. Watson took Patterson's ideals forward into the 20th century and, in doing so, created one of America's most enduring companies.

Books & References:

  • Rodgers, William. Think; A Biography of the Watsons and IBM. Stein and Day, 1969.
  • Watson, Thomas J., Jr., with Petre. Father, Son, and Co.: My Life at IBM and Beyond. New York: Bantam, 1990.


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