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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The 100-Year History of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company
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...
Published on June 21, 2011 by AdamSmythe

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lifeless, misleading and in no way capturing the company
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,...
Published on September 27, 2011 by Peter G. Keen


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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lifeless, misleading and in no way capturing the company, September 27, 2011
This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (Paperback)
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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. The book is extraordinarily selective in its narrating the evolution of ARPANET, the Internet and TCP/IP. It is all so tidy, flat and bland. It's reporting rather than analysis and it makes an exciting company and exciting times come across as very boring.

The puffery about the company itself is straight corporate credo. There is no discussion anywhere of the most distinctive element of IBM's management innovation: the professionalization of the sales force, the evolution of an entirely new relationship foundation with customers, the central role of its CEs and SEs (Customer and Systems Engineers), its massive investment in executive education which in essence created the new management tradition of the CIO and drove the breaking open of the Data Processing Department to its becoming the Information Systems organization. At its peak, IBM's sales teams had an entrée to the Executive Boardroom that no other vendor could match and an old truism was that no head of IS would ever get fired by recommending IBM. Its incentive systems reinforced the integrity of the sales and marketing superbly, including commissions being retroactively repaid by the sales rep if a customer ended a lease or returned a machine.

The leadership issues in IBM are reduced to dutiful eulogies of Tom Watson junior, C. Vincent Learson and the post-decline rebuilders of IBM, Lou Gerstner and Sam Palisano. John Akers and John Opel appear in guest sentences. Some of the most interesting executives are ignored: Vladavsky-Berger, whose advocacy of open systems and Linux reversed IBM's entire historical drift and played a major role in leveraging Gerstner's rescue of a close to dying colossus, Ellen Hancock (who fought TCP/IP to the hilt), Akers who did to IBM what Roger Smith did in GM, paralyzing it by imposing a financial bureaucracy and management by numbers that undermined its entire sales and marketing strengths, and Ken Iverson to name just a few pivotal figures. It's all as if a history of Apple mentioned that Steve Jobs was at one time its CEO and that Steve Wozniak did some programming for it. The book is so lifeless.

The IBM I knew was so vital, often awful to deal with, rigid, packed with immensely talented people of true integrity, saved from itself again and again by a loyal underground who would risk their careers to prevent an innovation being killed off, and a pace-setter that it was a privilege to work with. None of this comes across in the book which is an opposite in coverage, insight and evocation to its subtitle "The Ideas That Shaped a Century and A Company."
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The 100-Year History of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, June 21, 2011
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This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (Paperback)
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. He groups his part of the book into six categories:

1. Sensing: The mechanisms by which information gets into computers.
2. Memory: The way computers store and access information. Anyone past puberty has seen enormous strides in this area.
3. Processing: The core speed and capabilities of computers. Ditto on the enormous strides.
4. Logic: The software and languages computers use. Anyone remember ALGOL? Or what FORTRAN stood for?
5. Connecting: The ways computers communicate with us (and other machines).
6. Architecture: The ways advances come together to create new systems.

Again, I found Maney's part of the book the most interesting. On the other hand, if I were a business major, I think I might have preferred Steve Hamm's part, "Reinventing the Modern Corporation," because Hamm develops the long and interesting story about IBM's intentional creation of a major business culture. If you know anything about this company, you know what I mean. Hamm address topics like:

1. How does a company define and manage itself?
2. How does an organization create value?
3. How does an organization operate in a global economy?
4. How does an organization engage with society?

Okay, now the third and last part of the book, by Jeffrey O'Brien. If I were a long-time, loyal IBMer, this might be my favorite part of the book. O'Brien covers numerous examples of how IBM has affected the world we live in. This part of the book reminds me of all those "I'm an IBMer" commercials you see on TV nowadays. To be fair, IBM has done a lot, and it's no surprise that the company wants to celebrate (through this book) some of its accomplishments.

In short, this book is both an excellent history and a celebration of the successes of one of the most influential companies in history. If you want to know more--given an understanding of the book's objectives--then it certainly merits your consideration.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's About IBM - Except That It's Not, June 20, 2011
This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Account of the History of Technology!, June 23, 2011
This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting set of books on IBM's contributions, March 12, 2012
This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (Paperback)
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This is really three books in one, written by different authors, and all covering the past century and IBMs contributions to that century. If you're not interested in reading about IBM, I don't recommend picking up this book, since it's very focused on the company, its history, and the contributions it made to the world of technology over the past 100 years. Most interestingly, it follows the century in technology, but focuses on the reliance of people to drive technology and utilize it to its best. It's not about tech for the sake of tech.

The first book - Pioneering the Science of Information - follows the development of computing, with a particular focus to IBM's contributions. It's a very interesting history of computing throughout the major systems of a computer, and not technical. It's a fascinating study on how far we've come in the last 100 years.

The second book - Reinventing the Modern Corporation - focuses on the development of the corporation, and the contributions to the process by IBM. Focusing on culture development, globalization, and creating value, this part was an excellent history lesson. I didn't find it prescriptive in any way, but it did tell a good story that other organizations should think about.

The third and final book - Making the World Work Better - goes through how ideas, mostly started at IBM, have changed the world in a positive way. This is the most pro-IBM section, but not overbearingly so.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars IBM and its Many Contributions to Business and Society, October 8, 2011
This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (Paperback)
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Making the World Work Better is an historical narrative about the IBM Corporation and its many contributions to the world and its people. This book was written by three men who have worked with IBM over the years and are well aware of the many positive contributions that IBM has made to business and society.

IBM was a pioneering business during most of the twentieth century and its innovative products and services helped place the company among the most influential of its day. Most everyone knows at least a little bit about IBM and everyone has used it products and services at some point. Because of this, many who read this book will recognize some of the products and people who made IBM great. But IBM is also responsible in ways that many are unaware and this book brings some of these important moments and innovations to the forefront. How many are aware, for example, that IBM helped make the Apollo 11 moon landing possible? Or that IBM helped create the world's first computerized tracking system for seating availability on airplanes, helping to drastically reduce the time necessary to book a flight? These lesser- known technological advancements and others like them are among the many highlights of this book and they help maintain the reader's interest.

Making the World Work Better is similar to other historic business narratives in many ways, but one important difference is the illustrations. There are far more illustrations in this book than in most and they cover a large percentage of the book's pages. Some might consider this overkill and I did at first, but I appreciated this approach more and more as I read. The illustrations help the reader relate to the topic at hand and help to place specific moments into historic context.

The world is an ever- changing place and Making the World Work Better is a very good book about the IBM company and its countless contributions to society and business. It tends to be a little overly- optimistic about IBM and its many accomplishments, but it is still a very good book about one of the most important businesses of our time and its many commendable achievements in the twentieth century.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book!, September 10, 2011
This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (Paperback)
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This book is essentially a history of IBM (which I honestly didn't realize had been around for 100 yrs.) written by 3 different authors and focusing on different aspects of the development of the company and their products. I found it very interesting. Having lived through the 80's and the advent of the personal computer I especially enjoyed reading about the development of the components and the foresight that so many of these people had in realizing that this was going to be huge. If you are into histories/computers I truly believe you will enjoy this book. Thank you for taking the time to read my review and if you buy I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for every IBMer, July 31, 2011
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This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (Paperback)
This is a marvelous history of the IBM evolution and contributions to the world, done in a very absorbing way. It is an essential book for every IBMer, current and former, to own. Am so proud to have been a part of its history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read on the History of IBM, October 17, 2012
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This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (Paperback)
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If you like business and/or technology history this book is a great read about the history of one of the companies that really pioneered and defined the technology revolution. You will learn a lot about what made the company "think" and grow and become a technology powerhouse. It's a great read for anyone who wants to know more about how IBM made some of their most revolutionary products (System/360, IBM PC, etc.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Management-lite treatment of what made a great copmany, February 29, 2012
This review is from: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (Paperback)
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This book offers an intellectual history of what made a company great, and what made it great was organizational innovation in many facets of day to day operation within the organization. The ideas are good, but a little dated and known to most anyone who has taken a course on organizational theory. I mean, in this book, they put a human face on things, but other than telling a story it does not do a whole lot for the reader. It works to show how the company picked up on the innovations, but did not offer a lot more than that. Get it and enjoy from the stories that are told, but do not expect a systematic source of advice.
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Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press)
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