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Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2011/6/10
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Thomas J Watson Sr’s motto for IBM was THINK, and for more than a century, that one little word worked overtime. 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 mark the Centennial of IBM’s founding by examining how IBM has distinctly contributed to the evolution of technology and the modern corporation over the past 100 years.
The authors offer a fresh analysis through interviews of many key figures, chronicling the Nobel Prize-winning work of the company’s research laboratories and uncovering rich archival material, including hundreds of vintage photographs and drawings. The book recounts the company’s missteps, as well as its successes. It captures moments of high drama – from the bet-the-business gamble on the legendary System/360 in the 1960s to the turnaround from the company’s near-death experience in the early 1990s.
The authors have shaped a narrative of discoveries, struggles, individual insights and lasting impact on technology, business and society. Taken together, their essays reveal a distinctive mindset and organizational culture, animated by a deeply held commitment to the hard work of progress. IBM engineers and scientists invented many of the building blocks of modern information technology, including the memory chip, the disk drive, the scanning tunneling microscope (essential to nanotechnology) and even new fields of mathematics. IBM brought the punch-card tabulator, the mainframe and the personal computer into the mainstream of business and modern life. IBM was the first large American company to pay all employees salaries rather than hourly wages, an early champion of hiring women and minorities and a pioneer of new approaches to doing business--with its model of the globally integrated enterprise. And it has had a lasting impact on the course of society from enabling the US Social Security System, to the space program, to airline reservations, modern banking and retail, to many of the ways our world today works.
The lessons for all businesses – indeed, all institutions – are powerful: To survive and succeed over a long period, you have to anticipate change and to be willing and able to continually transform. But while change happens, progress is deliberate. IBM – deliberately led by a pioneering culture and grounded in a set of core ideas – came into being, grew, thrived, nearly died, transformed itself… and is now charting a new path forward for its second century toward a perhaps surprising future on a planetary scale.
“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商品の説明をすべて表示する
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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.
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."
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.
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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