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Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) Paperback – June 20, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: IBM Press
  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: IBM Press; 1 edition (June 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0132755106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0132755108
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,022,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“IBM doesn’t just THINK, it thinks big. The story of these big ideas illustrates how 100 years of innovation have shaped the way we live and work today.”

--Kenneth Chenault, Chairman and CEO, American Express


“Making the World Work Better convincingly documents IBM’s enormous impact on business and the world.  Its history provides vital lessons for organizations of all sizes, and IBM’s future promises to continue to innovate the way we work, and even think.”

 --Henry Chesbrough, Executive Director, Center for Open Innovation, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley


"The history of every great, enduring company includes a triumphant struggle to remain relevant in the marketplace without abandoning a core purpose and values.  At 100, IBM is one of a handful of organizations with so much to teach us about this unique journey."

 --Howard Schultz, Chairman, President and CEO, Starbucks


"Innovation, resilience, and great leadership are the key ingredients of the IBM story.  Making the World Work Better tells that story exceptionally well.  Ultimately, it reveals that IBM is not simply a technology company; it is a company of ideas and the future those ideas have created."

 --John Hollar, President and CEO, Computer History Museum

From the Back Cover

One hundred years ago, the company that would become IBM took its first steps into an unknown future. In Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company, journalists Kevin Maney, Steve Hamm and Jeffrey M. O’Brien tell a story of progress that illuminates, and transcends, the rich history of a single enterprise.

Through extensive research, they explore IBM’s impact on technology, on the evolving role of the modern corporation and on the way our world literally works. Most intriguingly, they uncover a set of compelling ideas whose greatest impact may lie not in the previous century, but in the next one—ideas with the power to shape a surprising future, and to change the way we think.

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Customer Reviews

The book is well written and well-worth reading.
In short, this book is both an excellent history and a celebration of the successes of one of the most influential companies in history.
Too may authors, each one specifying just one little side of the overall picture, which remains blurred.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By AdamSmythe on June 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book's publication, by IBM Press, was timed to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording (C-T-R) Company by financier Charles Flint on June 18, 1911. Thomas Watson Sr. joined C-T-R in 1914, the company's name was changed to International Business Machines in 1924, and the rest is history. Indeed, that's what this book is--a history of the events surrounding and accompanying IBM, written by three journalists IBM "reached out to," who have covered IBM and its industry for a number of years. Basically, this book chronicles IBM's technical and management development and its many accomplishments over the years. If you're a dedicated IBMer, this book should make you proud. If you've been an IBM critic over the years, you should look elsewhere for ammunition, because you won't find much here. If you are a technology layperson with an interest in the company and its impact, I think you'll enjoy these 320-plus pages of IBM's story.

The book is well-written and easy to read. The three authors have backgrounds writing for publications like Business Week, USA Today, Fortune and Wired, so there's no overly technical stuff. As you'd expect to see in magazines such as these, there are plenty of photos, some of which are bound to bring back memories for many readers: (very) old computers, "IBM cards," big tape drives, typewriters, early PCs, etc.

There is a short forward written by Sam Palmisano, the current chairman and CEO, and then the book is broken into three parts corresponding to the three authors. Although others may come to a different conclusion, I found the first part, by Kevin Maney, to be the most interesting. Maney develops the stories associated with much of IBM's advancement of information processing technology.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Peter G. Keen VINE VOICE on September 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Oh dear. I really looked forward to this book. I worked as a researcher, management educator, writer and consultant with IBM for almost fifty years. It funded much of my best work, many of my closest friends of twenty years are ex-IBMers, and up till the 1990s IBM was at very center - not always positively - of just about every area of thought leadership in the IT field, industry competition and innovation, management best practice, and sheer adventure.

This book is just a flat piece of amiable corporate puffery. It is a dutiful selective journey down memory lane that occasionally jazzes up the company stuff with the Bigger Picture - Information! Communication! Knowledge! The Global Whatever. It's flat and often very misleading about IBM itself, the industry, the technology and the competitive innovations that led to the rise and erosion of so many firms. It omits or jumps over so much that it makes the story about as exciting as, say, a commissioned History of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving.

For anyone interested in the history of the IT field, this is close to a zero star work. It mispresents so many key forces and events. There is barely a mention except as names of Gene Amdahl, DEC, Ethernet, Wang, SNA, EBDIC, or client/server. Microsoft gets one sentence on PC-DOS and there is nothing about how Gates so skillfully used IBM to fund his ability to compete with IBM. The proprietary/open standards/plug compatibility battles that shaped the industry are patchily covered and in some instances what is presented is way off base - examples are LANs, where token ring versus Ethernet is skipped over and Novell not even mentioned. The paragraph or so on virtualization and its direct causal link to cloud computing could hardly be more misguiding.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David on June 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Making the World Work Better" is a fast-paced jazz-like riff through the ideas and technologies that underscore our world. The authors deliberately refuse to get locked into a conventional narrative style, choosing instead to swoop in and out of concepts based on their relevance to society and place within the long arc of technology and business innovation.

While IBM's own experience provides both the foundation and framework for this exploration, it really is about more than a single company. Rather, it's about the importance of standing for basic principles in a complex and interconnected world. While the book discusses IBM's own principles as seen through the prism of business and technology, when you pull back you also realize that what the authors have to say has relevance to any enterprise or institution. It's about understanding who you are, and then using that knowledge to define your mission.

As a proud ex-IBMer, this book reminded me just how much I've been shaped by my IBM experience -- and what a truly special place it is. The ideas shared in this book aren't merely trapped within its pages, but are openly (and, at times, exhaustively) discussed every day at IBM. It's only when you leave that environment that you realize how unusual that is.

All in all, a fascinating book that appeals across a wide spectrum -- and should also become required reading for entrepreneurs who are interested in creating something that has enduring value.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JoanneRB on June 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
I am a non-technical person by nature, so when I received this book, I wasn't sure it would appeal to me. However, once I started reading, I found I couldn't put it down. Not only does it relay interesting behind-the-scenes stories of the technology we take for granted in our every day lives, it also provides a gripping account of history through a lens we don't often see.
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