How IBM Survived The Great Depression

from the innovation-keeps-going dept

USA Today’s Kevin Maney has written a book about how IBM’s founder, Thomas Watson kept the company going during the great depression. Some of the story sound remarkably like what technology companies are facing today, though, Watson went in the opposite direction of most of today’s companies. Instead of holding back, he refused to lay people off, increased production, and spent heavily on new research and development capabilities. He was quoted as saying: “When is industrial progress going to start again? I say it never stopped. Some people may not believe that, but it is a fact. You are going to find as we get further out of the Depression ? and we are on our way out ? that inventive genius, progressive ideas, progressive people, have been more active than ever. Industrial progress has never stopped.” Of course, the company came incredibly close to bankruptcy, and was only saved by the need for accounting machines that came about when the Social Security Act became law. No surprise that USA Today is the site running the excerpt. The book itself is called The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson Sr. and the Making of IBM. I find it a little amusing that, these days, when the idea of a contemporary “celebrity CEO” is no longer interesting, we’re building up historical CEOs as celebrities instead.

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