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The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM

The first complete look at one of Americaa s legendary business leaders This groundbreaking biography by Kevin Maney, acclaimed technology columnist for USA Today, offers fresh insight and new information on one of the twentieth centurya s greatest business figures. Over the course of forty–two years, Thomas J. Watson took a failing business called The Computer–Tabulating–Recording Company and transformed it into IBM, the worlda s first and most famous high–tech company. The Maverick and His Machine is the first modern biography of this business titan. Maney secured exclusive access to hundreds of boxes of Watsona s long–forgotten papers, and he has produced the only complete picture of Watson the man and Watson the legendary business leader. These uncovered documents reveal new information about how Watson bet the company in the 1920s on tabulating machines–the forerunners to computers–and how he daringly beat the Great Depression of the 1930s. The documents also lead to new insights concerning the controversy that has followed Watson: his suppos ed coll usion with Adolf Hitlera s Nazi regime. Maney paints a vivid portrait of Watson, uncovers his motivations, and offers needed context on his mammoth role in the course of modern business history. Jim Collins, author of the bestsellers Good to Great and Built to Last, writes in the Foreword to Maneya s book: “Leaders like Watson are like forces of nature–almost terrifying in their release of energy and unpredictable volatility, but underneath they still adhere to certain patterns and principles. The patterns and principles might be hard to see amidst the melee, but they are there nonetheless. It takes a gifted person of insight to highlight those patterns, and that is exactly what Kevin Maney does in this book.” The Maverick and His Machine also includes never–before–published photos of Watson from IBMa s archives, showing Watson in greater detail than any book ever has before. Essential reading for every businessperson, tech junkie, and IBM follower, the book is also full of the kind of personal detail and reconstructed events that make it a page–turning story for general readers. The Maverick and the Machine is poised to be one of the most important business biographies in years. Kevin Maney is a nationally syndicated, award–winning technology columnist at USA Today, where he has been since 1985. He is a cover story writer whose story about IBMa s bet–the–company move gained him national recognition. He was voted best technology columnist by the business journalism publication TJFR. Marketing Computers magazine has four times named him one of the most influential technology columnists. He is the author of Wileya s MEGAMEDIA SHAKEOUT: The Inside Story of the Leaders and the Losers in the Exploding Communications Industry, which was a Business Week Bestseller. Residence: Clifton, VA. “Watson was clearly a genius with a thousand helpers, yet he managed to build an institution that could transcend the genius.” –from the Foreword by Jim Collins “Like all great biographers, Kevin Maney gives us an engaging story…his fascinating and definitive book about IBMa s founder is replete with amazing revelations and character lessons that resonate today.” –Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School, bestselling author of Evolve! and When Giants Learn to Dance

From Publishers Weekly

The story of Watson’s transformation of the disorganized, amorphous Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company into streamlined, world-famous IBM receives a spirited telling by Maney, a USA Today technology columnist. Access to previously unexplored records has provided juicy raw material, including letters and internal memos, to bring America’s first celebrity CEO to life in this warts-and-all biography. Watson (1874- 1956) saw the strategic value of corporate culture early and was protective of what he built; Maney argues that the strength of that culture later allowed IBM to survive the potentially devastating effects of Watson’s personality flaws. Charismatic, optimistic and generous, Watson was also self-absorbed and psychologically ruthless in getting things done his way. Hard to work for and unable to distinguish between the company and himself, he also behaved like a dictatorial CEO and wreaked havoc with his family. Watson’s mania for overreaching peaked when he accepted a decoration from Hitler in 1937 under the deluded impression that Hitler would follow Watson’s campaign for world peace through world trade; according to Maney, that episode illustrates how out-of-control Watson’s ego had grown. Yet, as Maney makes clear in this timely tale of the man who made information into an industry and discovered the power of corporate culture, Watson wasn’t just the best business story at the end of the 1930s; he had become a great American success story that captured the popular imagination.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

…”a rich and thorough portrait that goes right back to turn-of-the-century America…” (“Business Voice, March 2003)”Maney’s book should hold great appeal not only for avid business readers but also for devotees of the vicissitudes of financial dynasties.” (“Publishers Weekly, March 17, 2003)…”Maney has written a timely and authoritative biography. Without lapsing into hero worship, he presents a great, if flawed, man in all his humanity.” (“Business Week, May 12, 2003)”A much more lively and nuanced picture of the senior Watson can be found in Kevin Maney’s excellent new biography, “The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson Sr. and the Making of I.B.M.” (“The New York Times, May 12, 2003)…”the author’s delightful anecdotes showcase the quirky, human side of what became a major knowledge-based company.” (“Harvard Business Review, May 2003)…”excellent use of transcripts… should be recommended reading for anyone who seriously wants to be a business mogul…” (“Economist, 10 May 2003)…”formidable in its research, vivid, insightful and often hilarious…” (“Management Today, June 2003)…”an intriguing study of the man who made IBM, Thomas Watson…” (“New Scientist, 7 June 2003)…”Maney has done a splendid job of getting inside his subject and bringing the enigmatic Watson and his contributions richly to life.” (“Library Journal, June 15, 2003)” … it’s the definitive work to date… ” (Focus, July 2003)” … a compelling account of one of the twentieth century’s most important business leaders… ” (Information Age, June 2003)

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