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The Watson Dynasty

By Richard S. Tedlow

     IBM is a renowned name in the business world and many of us take their products for granted in our day-to-day lives. Author Richard Tedlow gives us a peek into just how the corporation rose to be the well-known business giant it has become. The father and son team of Thomas Watson Sr. and Thomas Watson Jr. are profiled as they shaped a business which would dominate the American Corporate landscape until some poor business decisions in the late 1980's and early 1990's allowed others to overtake "big blue" and almost lead to the end of the corporation.

     Watson Sr. took the reins of a struggling company in 1914 and through his leadership turned it around. Later on, his son would rise up in his shadow and make his own mark on the corporate world, bringing in his own ideas. Some of these were radically different from his father's philosophy.

     Tedlow looks at both of the men as individuals as well as at their fiery relationship. Despite a great respect for each other, the two men were known to have terrible arguments. This didn't affect them personally as Tedlow makes it clear that the men had love for each other despite often feuding in the business world. After Watson Sr.'s death, his son needed a few months to cope with the loss of his father before he could return to the boardroom and continue to keep IBM a vibrant force in the marketplace. I enjoyed reading more about the human side of the two men rather than just a stark corporate history.

     I also enjoyed the informal style of the book. At times I felt more like I was listening to a lecture in a college business class, but I found that it made for a less intimidating read than what I originally thought the story of the founders of IBM would be. Tedlow relies on sources such as business magazines, newspaper articles, and other secondary sources for much of the information, and his attribution is thorough without being distracting. This was very interesting and informative without going over the heads of many readers.


The Book

December 1, 2004
Nonfiction / Business, Company Histories
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The Reviewer

Patti Aliventi
Reviewed 2005
© 2005