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Praise for THE MAVERICK AND HIS MACHINE
"Like all great biographers, Kevin Maney gives us an engaging story and so much more. His fascinating and definitive book about IBM’s founder is replete with amazing revelations and character lessons that resonate today. Among the gems: how a demanding curmudgeon managed to shape a collaborative corporate cultureand create a legacy that changed the world."
Rosabeth Moss Kanter Harvard Business School, bestselling author of Evolve!
and When Giants Learn to Dance
"The gripping story of sky-high ambition, iron willpower, huge bet-the-company gambles, humiliating failure, and unparalleled successone of the best books ever written about the technology industry, about one of the most fascinating people in twentieth-century America."
Marc Andreessen Cofounder of Opsware, Inc. and Netscape
"The story of Watson and IBM is a compellingand, at times, cautionarytale of a determined, charismatic, flawed, and ultimately successful leader. Anyone interested in the story of business in America, the birth of high-tech, or simply the rags-to-riches tale of one determined businessman should read this book."
Robert M. Menschel Senior Director, Goldman Sachs author of Markets, Mobs, and Mayhem
"In an action-packed story that reads like a novel, Kevin Maney paints a convincing portrait of a man who, having been a convicted criminal, redeemed himself and reshaped the American business landscape. The career of Thomas Watson, the effective founder of IBM, is not only fascinating, but offers many critical lessons on management and personal conduct that remain extremely poignant today."
Peter Krass author of Carnegie
Chapter 1. Maverick Kindling.
Chapter 2. Lit by Flint.
Chapter 3. A Mess Spelled C-T-R.
Chapter 4. Bringing Up Baby IBM.
Chapter 5. Daring and Luck.
Chapter 6. Friends, Heroes, Sycophants.
Chapter 7. Enemies and Delusions.
Chapter 8. King and Castle.
Chapter 9. Watson the Second.
Chapter 10. Watson's War.
Chapter 11. Old Man, New Electronic Age.
Chapter 12. World Conquest.
Chapter 13. The Maverick and His Humanity.
Chapter 14. Generations After.
His book, Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?, was about to be released. In it, he wrote often about Watson and the power of the culture Watson had built, and I looked forward to talking with him about his insights.
But I wasn't sure how well that was going to go. Never a big fan of the press, Gerstner decided to grant only two interviews to publicize the book. I got one of them, and I planned to use it to write a cover story for my employer, USA Today. I respected Gerstner, but on a few previous interviews over nearly a decade, he'd been prickly and intimidating. So I was expecting more of the same as Gerstner's public relations person, Laura Keeton, led me into a small conference room in IBM's headquarters.
There is one other relevant fact here: This happened to be on the day when Gerstner relinquished his position as IBM's chairman. As of his meeting with me, Gerstner was free of all IBM burdens.
The door opened. In breezed Gerstner. "Hello, Kevin! Haven't seen you in a long time," he said, smiling and shaking my hand. He was sunny and chatty -- a whole different Lou Gerstner. Over the years, some of his friends had told me he really was funny and charming in private. I was finally seeing that Lou Gerstner.
As we talked, I found that we had each discovered -- through different means -- the same core Thomas Watson. Gerstner had lived it and personally encountered it, eventually finding that the Watson culture formed the inner strength that would help bring IBM back from the brink. In his book, Gerstner wrote: "I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn't just one aspect of the game -- it is the game." As CEO, Gerstner began reviving the best of Watson's cultural values.
I had discovered Watson through research and learned a great deal about him through the thousands of personal documents he'd left behind -- documents that had never before been made public. In my book, I had concluded that Watson's greatest creation was IBM's culture. He hadn't created just a company, he'd created a civilization. Watson, in fact, was the first to truly understand the power of a corporate culture and to purposefully build and tend such a culture.
I had about an hour with Gerstner. We talked about his tenure at IBM, what he learned, and even about his newfound respect for authors, which made me smile. "I found it an extraordinarily difficult process," he said.
When the interview was done, one particular moment stuck with me. It was a story Gerstner told me about Watson's son, Thomas Watson Jr., who took over IBM from Watson in 1956.
One morning in 1993, soon after Gerstner took the IBM CEO position, he walked out of his house to go to work. A car and driver were waiting for him, just as a car and driver had for years picked him up to take him to his offices at RJR Nabisco and American Express. "I went to sit down and realized there was somebody sitting in the other seat," Gerstner told me. There, in the back seat, sat Tom Watson Jr.
In an odd, almost cosmic coincidence, Gerstner lived right next door to Olive and Tom Jr. in Greenwich, Connecticut. The Watson house stood on the waterfront; Gerstner's was on an adjacent property, along a narrow road. Gerstner had lived there well before joining IBM, and the proximity had nothing to do with his getting the job. But imagine the odds of their being neighbors! "He asked if he could please ride to work with me," Gerstner said.
As Gerstner got over his surprise and climbed into the car, Tom Jr. let loose that he was angry about what had happened to "my company." He urged Gerstner to tear the place up and move quickly. Gerstner recalled that Tom Jr. emphasized "the need he had seen over and over again to take bold action." Tom Jr. prodded and encouraged Gerstner, but he did not attempt to tell the new CEO what he should do or how he should do it.
"I was sitting there thinking, 'This is really a special moment,' " Gerstner recalled.
In a sense, Tom Watson Jr. in that moment forged the link between the great IBM of the past and the possibility of reviving that greatness for the future. It was almost as if Watson Jr. rode in the car so he could hand Gerstner the keys to the Watson culture. A few months later, Watson Jr. died.
Today, a new CEO -- Sam Palmisano -- is running IBM. He is a lifelong IBMer. He has the IBM culture -- the Watson culture -- in his veins. Palmisano says over and over that he intends to meld the best of IBM's Watson-era DNA with the best of the new-generation DNA. Much to my fascination, Watson has once again come alive. Kevin Maney
Posted March 31, 2011
This is really a great book. Whether you are a current or former IBMer, of if you enjoy reading about the business leaders of our country, this is a must. Well written, engaging, and hard to put down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2004
This book seems to have been written primarily because the author learned about the existence of boxes of Thomas Watson¿s papers that had never been read by any biographer or journalist. In some cases, the author¿s access to these new materials does help fill in some minor gaps in the existing accounts of Watson¿s life. And cumulatively, they take some of the shine off the legend, impressing upon one how humdrum the daily life of even a business titan must be. This book is reasonably well written and packed with memorable anecdotes. While it doesn¿t offer stunning new insights, we recommends it as a readable, accessible and balanced introduction to one of the greatest executives of the twentieth century.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 25, 2003
I purchased this book for my boyfriend as a birthday gift. He read it in three days and told me how great it was. I was curious and so I picked it up and thought this was a gripping story about an American institution.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.