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The Watson Dynasty: The Fiery Reign and Troubled Legacy of IBM's Founding Father and Son Hardcover – November 4, 2003


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The Watson Dynasty: The Fiery Reign and Troubled Legacy of IBM's Founding Father and Son + The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness (November 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060014059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060014056
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,783,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The soul of corporate man is insightfully explored in this engaging biographical study of the family that built IBM. With a prescient vision of the importance of information processing, Thomas Watson Sr. took over the rudderless conglomerate in 1914, bringing it over the decades into the forefront of the modern bureaucratic economy and the computer revolution. But IBM's corporate culture was not quite the hyper-rational technocracy the company came to symbolize. Starting out as a salesman under National Cash Register's charismatic founder John Patterson, "the father of modern salesmanship," Watson elaborated IBM's salesmanship ethos to "totalitarian" heights, complete with company songs that celebrated Watson's personality cult ("T. J. Watson, you're a leader fine, the greatest in the land") in terms usually reserved for North Korean dictators. Business historian Tedlow ably analyzes IBM's evolving business strategies, but focuses on the human side, especially the tormented relationship, replete with Freudian overtones, between Watson Sr. and Watson Jr., an energetic playboy who slowly emerged from his father's shadow to succeed him at IBM's helm. Although Tedlow sometimes over-emphasizes their Oedipal wranglings, his approach sheds useful light on the social psychology of IBM's rise-the "ego-shattering rejection" experienced by salesmen, which the "religiosity" of IBM's culture was meant to assuage; the techniques for establishing rapport and credibility that transformed the salesman from con-artist to expert consultant in the eyes of customers; the humiliations routinely meted out by abusive bosses to long-suffering organization men. Tedlow is both admiring of and aghast at its protagonists, and his well-researched and briskly written account is a revealing look at the making of corporate America.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“From Richard Tedlow’s insightful group portrait of seven American entrepreneurs...a rough formula for titanhood can be deduced.” (Atlantic Monthly)

“Tedlow’s ‘passionate and fluid writing’ makes Giants of Enterprise a pleasure to read.” (Business Week)

“Tedlow’s mastery as a historian…takes us to the heart of what is unique about the American economy.” (Michael E. PorterBishop William Lawrence University ProfessorHarvard Business School)

One of the top ten business books of 2001 (Business Week)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If you are interested in the lives of the father and son that built IBM, this book is a pretty good place to start. It is an interpretive essay rather than an academic or formal biography. Since the author is basing this book on secondary sources, he carefully lists all the sources he relied on to write this book, He doesn't claim to provide original research or to have had access to primary sources that aren't publicly available. But it is good for a quick read and introduction to the Thomas Watson Sr and Jr.
Since business is done by actual human beings, I enjoy peeling back the corporate veneer and the impersonal language of saying the company did this or that and looking at the real people and what they did with a touch of why they made their choices if such evidence is available. Not for the soap opera or supposition of it, but to learn real lessons about the character, the luck, the blunders, the brilliance that makes up all of the stories of history. One of the phony things corporations do in misusing the language is to say things like ABC Giantcorp made the decision to do XYZ. Actually, the men and women who run the organization made that decision. The Watsons both knew this and were, by today's standards, surprisingly human (if hard driving).
Watson Sr. was a special character who came out of that early period of the first vast American corporations. He learned the right lessons and had the right traits. He found the right opportunity in building what he turned into IBM. Watson Jr. turned into a special character partly from the training from his father, but more by his experiences in WWII. But like a great many families of men of vast ambition and ability, the family of Watson Sr. did not get all the benefits of wealth and experience without cost.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Those who have read Tedlow's Giants of Enterprise are already aware of his unique and abundant skills as a brilliant thinker and eloquent writer. In this volume, he focuses his attention on Thomas Watson Sr. and Jr. who established and then developed one of the great dynasties in modern business history. (Watson Sr. was among seven "Giants" Tedlow discusses in his previous book.) This volume consists of several separate but carefully integrated parts: Watson Sr.'s life and career, his son Tom's life and career, and their often volatile personal as well as professional relationship at IBM.

Of special interest to me is Watson Sr.'s career with the National Cash Register company during which he observed first-hand the leadership and management style of its founder and CEO, John Henry Patterson. Tedlow suggests that Watson Sr. learned many lessons from Patterson which later proved invaluable when, after being asked to resign his position at NCR, Watson accepted an offer to head the Computing-Tabulating-Recording company, renamed the International Business Machines Corporation in 1924. By then, Watson had demonstrated his genius as a salesman. "It was, however, his very appreciation of selling that prompted his constant push for better products and his support of engineers and the interest risks of research and development....What made Watson great was his understanding that in order for marketing to succeed, the marketers needed a product to sell which the market would accept....Selling was the art of helping the customer to understand that he did indeed both need and want what you were selling to him.
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By Mistercrisp on November 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a fascinating read. Not only was it about the relationship of the two Watsons with each other, but there was quite a bit of information involving business history, comparing IBM's experiences and challenges with other companies in the past, which I felt added a lot of depth to the story. I highly recommend this book - I couldn't put it down.
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By Charlie on January 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a description of the founding and maturation of IBM. It described Thomas Watson sr and his background. And it gives an interesting history of IBM itself. I was particularly interested since our local Public Television Station, WSKG has just produced a 90 minute documentary on the same subject. This book provides a fuller description both of the personalities of the Watsons but also of their philosophy of selling and the development of IBM. Having dealt with the company as a customer and as a corporate donor to my institution, it was interesting to learn something of the background. The book is well written and interesting.
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