The Value of Failure?

Thomas J. Watson built a worldwide industry during his 42 years at IBM, where he served as CEO and Chairman. He was a pioneer in the development of accounting and computing equipment used today by business, government, science and industry.

Starting out as a bookkeeper at age 18, he went on to sell sewing machines and musical instruments, and then joined National Cash Register (NCR) as a salesman.

Eventually Watson worked his way up to general sales manager at NCR, inspiring the sales force with the motto, “THINK,” which later became a widely known symbol of IBM.

Watson developed IBM’s management style and corporate culture from his training at NCR, and turned the company into a highly-effective selling organization. To the surprise of many, one of his most famous sayings was, “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”

The importance of this perspective is, quite simply, that a culture in which it is ‘ok’ to fail is a culture in which people, with amnesty, will try new things, challenge the status-quo, and seek better ways to do their jobs.

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