Blog Article

IBM-100 Years and Counting!

Posted by on January 22, 2014 6:29 pm

ImageIBM - 100 Years and Counting!

Believe it or not, IBM has already celebrated its 100-year anniversary.  People familiar with IBM are not only struck by how long IBM has been in business, but by how the company has continued to reinvent itself over the years.

IBM started its corporate life making clocks and cheese slicers.  When the Social Security Act became law, IBM created the punched-card tabulator to keep track of Social Security recipients.  Over time, they invented the Selectric Typewriter, magnetic tapes, he memory chip, mainframes and personal computers.  Today, IBM is known for its services and its software.

IBM has been one of the richest and largest companies in the world and one that has been on the brink of financial disaster. In 1962, Tom Watson, Jr., the son of IBM’s founder, spoke to an audience on the 50th anniversary of the company, startling them with the following statistic.  Only two of the top 25 industrial corporations in the United States in 1900 were still on the top 25 list with 6 being absorbed, 2 disappearing and 15 slipping way far behind.  Fast-forward to today and only 2 of the top 25 companies at the time of Tom Watson’s speech are still at top 25.

The founders of IBM believed that success was fleeting, but if they created a philosophy that worked they could sustain the company for the long haul.  In the words of Tom Watson from 1962, here is that formula for success:

“I firmly believe that any organization, in order to survive and achieve success, must have a sound set of beliefs on which it premises all its policies and actions.”

You could infer that this statement refers to a value system, but beyond that, it speaks to what makes the company unique and how it wants to be viewed in the marketplace.  IBM clearly wanted to be known as an innovator.  They wanted to bring creative solutions to the marketplace that solved a problem and allowed their customers to be more productive.  They wanted their customers to come to IBM for these solutions that they could get from nowhere else.

“I believe that if an organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself… except those beliefs…”

IBM’s long corporate history reflects their willingness to change, to evolve and to reinvent itself, preparing the company to serve the marketplace as it evolves.  Look at the progression of computing.  IBM had tabulation machines, then typewriters, then room-sized computers, then computers that sat on the desktop and finally the software and services that drove the information age.  There is no doubt IBM will continue to evolve.  Their slogan, “Think” is what they do best.

Congratulations IBM.  100 years of keeping true to your core beliefs, of creating a culture for success and having the courage to continue to evolve.  We hope that companies will take a page from your playbook so they can survive, grow and thrive. 


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