wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Thomas Watson Jr, A Business and Its Beliefs (1963)Thomas Watson Jnr, A Business and Its Beliefs (1963)


The boss of the American computer company, IBM, from 1956 to 1971, and the son of its founder, Thomas Watson Sr (1874-1956), pictured right below.

Watson died in 1993.


See also...Thomas Watson Jnr, A Business and Its Beliefs (1963)

Thomas Watson Jnr in the Business Leaders section. 


Book summary


Reasons for IBM’s success 

Its success has been based on the “ingrained understanding” of and “faithful adherence” to three beliefs:


1. Respect for the individualThomas Watson Jnr, A Business and Its Beliefs (1963)

  • above average pay and benefits.
  • respect for people’s dignity.
  • excellent training and personal development.
  • an “Open Door” policy (open communication between management and employees).
  • promotion opportunities.
  • job security (if someone is good enough).

But IBM isn’t a “life-time ticket” - unsuitable people are fired, but only after they have been given every opportunity for self-improvement.

People must be enabled and encouraged to give their best.


2. Give the world’s best customer service

This is achieved through:Thomas Watson Jnr, A Business and Its Beliefs (1963)

  • the co-operation of every part of the business.
  • hiring the best people (including a brilliant sales force).
  • treating employees well.

Employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction and so profit.

At IBM world-class customer service became:

  • “one of the company's principal assets”.
  • a “reflex” that people automatically carried out.


3. Striving for perfectionThomas Watson Jnr, A Business and Its Beliefs (1963)

This is achieved through:

  • challenging goals.  
  • constantly changing and striving for improvement.
  • avoiding complacency
  • “a blend of optimism, enthusiasm, excitement and pace”
  • continual learning from mistakes.

Thomas Watson Sr, Watson’s father and founder of IBM, told his employees:

“It is better to aim at perfection and miss than it is to aim at imperfection and hit it”.Thomas Watson Jnr, A Business and Its Beliefs (1963)

The best ways to overcome resistance to change are:

  • communication.
  • education.
  • re-training.


But don't forget ethics and social responsibility...Thomas Watson Jnr, A Business and Its Beliefs (1963)

It is the responsibility of top management to ensure that its company is:

  • ethical.
  • socially responsible.

A business must be motivated by not only profit (from employee and customer satisfaction – see above) but also “the well-being of the whole nation” 

This means helping America’s defence and its social policies like:

  • education and health
  • support for the poor and unemployed.


Key quote on business 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... if an organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except those beliefs as it moves through corporate life.


Key quote on human resource management

I believe the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can very often be traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.


Key quote on teams

Co-operation must outrank self-interest


Key quote on corporate culture

Beliefs must always come before policies, practices and goals


Key quotes on change

Complacency is the most natural and insidious disease of large corporations

In business, the status quo means inevitable failure.


Key quote on customer satisfaction

The relationship between the man and the customer, their mutual trust, the importance of reputation, the idea of putting the customer first - always - all these things, if carried out with real conviction by a company, can make a great deal of difference in its destiny.


Key quote on business ethics

To keep a company ethical and clean is the responsibility of top management

Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books