As the eldest son of the president of IBM, Thomas Watson Jr. grew up tortured by self-doubt. He suffered bouts of depression and once burst into tears over the thought that his formidable father wanted him to join IBM and eventually run what was already a significant company. “I can’t do it,” he wailed to his mother. “I can’t go to work for IBM.”
Yet 26 years later, Watson not only succeeded his father but also would eventually surpass him. IBM is now synonymous with computers, even though the company did not invent the device that would change our life, nor had it shipped a single computer before Tom Jr. took over.
But he boldly took IBM–and the world–into the computer age, and in the process developed a company whose awesome sales and service savvy and dark-suited culture stood for everything good and bad about corporate America. No wonder the Justice Department sought (unsuccessfully) to break it up.