IBM is one of the most successful companies in American history; it ushered in the Information Age and dominated the information industry for more than seventy years. Yet the builder of IBM has never been thoroughly examined and brought to life. Now, award-winning journalist Kevin Maney, using thousands of documents never before made public, reveals the lasting achievement of the man who forever changed the world of business. Watson was the rare businessman who transcended business. His fame and power echoes that of Microsofts Bill Gates today and Standard Oils John D. Rockefeller in an earlier age. Watson, in fact, created the role of the celebrity CEO. On a grander scale, Watson invented the modern concept of the corporate culture, and proved its power to make a company great.
Watsons story plays out on a global stage, intersecting with the major events and people of his time. A business failure as a young man, he rocketed to the top levels of National Cash Register before a federal antitrust trial nearly brought down NCR and seemingly crushed his career. The moment forever shaped Watsons business sensibilities and drove him to reinvent the American corporation. In 1914, he took charge of a struggling little entity called the Computer-Tabulating-Recording Company, infused it with his values, his competitive drive, and his personality quirks, and transformed it into International Business Machines — IBM.
Over and over, Watson made daring bets and won, each time vaulting IBM to a new level of size and power. In the 1920s, when information wasnt obviously going to become a big industry, he bet IBMs future on tabulating machines — the mechanical forerunners to computers. In the Depression of the 1930s, Watson pumped money into R&D and kept factories running while most companies slashed budgets and jobs. When Franklin Roosevelts New Deal created massive information demands, IBM was ready to fill them. The companys growth exploded, and Watson became the highest-paid American.
In his later years, Watsons life took a Shakespearean turn. He struggled with his son for power, and stayed on at IBM into his eighties, endangering the empire hed built. He became entangled in controversy by accepting a medal from Nazi Germany, a mistake that haunts his legacy today. In the late 1940s, Watson and Thomas Watson, Jr. guided IBM through the torturous transition from mechanical technology to electronic computers. With exceptional detail that takes the reader inside business meetings in Watsons office and into his relationships with presidents, business leaders, employees, and family members, Maney tracks Watsons rise from obscure cash register salesman to household name. Maney examines the profound impact Watson had on modern companies, the business lessons learned, and the personal motivations that spurred Watsons frantic energy and inexhaustible drive for success. The Maverick and His Machine for the first time reveals the true character of the man whose visionary leadership laid the foundation for the computer revolution.