Artifact Details


Richard S. Tedlow, Harvard Business School Professor and Historian, Leads the IBM 360 HBS Case

Catalog Number



Moving image




Tedlow, Richard S.


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA, US




From abstract: Professor Tedlow will discuss the story of IBM as the leading technology company in the 1960s taking a huge risk in developing a new family of computers – a financial investment approximately three times its annual sales (1960). In 1966, Fortune magazine called this “perhaps the riskiest business judgment” of the era.

In 1964, IBM held press conferences in 62 US cities and 14 countries around the world, where Thomas Watson, Jr., the Chairman of the Board, and CEO announced that the new System/360 was “a sharp departure from the concepts of the past.” There were to be six separate compatible machines, with interchangeable memories, providing 19 different combinations, and a total of 40 peripherals. No other company had ever introduced six computer models of totally new design, at one time, in a technology never tested in the marketplace, and with programming abilities of the greatest complexity.

Join Professor Richard S. Tedlow, as he facilitates an interactive discussion, which analyzes this very high risk, very high reward business decision. With history as the teacher, Tedlow will ask probing questions as he leads the debate on such issues as:
- Why would a company that’s leading the market attempt a project of such immense financial and technological risk?
- What were the key success factors for the IBM 360? What was the “secret sauce” in the company culture that allowed its people to succeed with this startling innovation?
- Why was it possible for a non-technical CEO, like Watson to manage such a technologically complex project? Would this be possible in today’s technological climate?
- What can Google learn from this lesson? Microsoft?
- What can other great companies learn about change and innovation from this business decision?



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