Thomas J Watson Jr succeeded his father as chief executive of IBM in 1952. His leadership was something of a success. IBM experienced around 30% compound growth, year on year, for the entire 20 years that he was in the job. Amongst his projects he oversaw the System/360 project, an initiative Fortune magazine called a “$5 billion Gamble.”
This isn’t intended as a second instalment in a series on the history of computing, any more than Don’t Waiver was yesterday, but as an introduction to running a business based on beliefs. How did Watson pull off $5 billion gambles? Page 5 of his 1963 book, from which this post takes its title, gives a clue:
I firmly believe that any organization, in order to survive and achieve success, must have a sound set of beliefs on which it premises all its policies and actions.
Next, I believe that the most important single factor in corporate success is faithful adherence to those beliefs.
And finally, I believe that if any organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except those beliefs as it moves through corporate life.
In other words, the basic philosophy, spirit, and drive of an organization have far more to do with its relative achievements than do technological or economic resources, organizational structure, innovation, and timing. All these things weigh heavily in success. But they are, I think, transcended by how strongly the people in the organization believe in its basic precepts and how faithfully they carry them out.
Watson’s sound set of beliefs formed the deepest of IBMs layers, providing the foundation for everything that happened at IBM under his watch.
I just searched Amazon for “business books” and found 156,947 results. One of them is Watsons, (which you can find here) – recommended reading for anyone in the pursuit of skippiness.
Photo credit – US Department of State, via Wikipaedia.
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