Think (IBM)

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Think signs in several languages
IBM THINK sign at a punched card data processing facility using IBM equipment, circa 1960. To see the THINK sign (top center) click to view larger image
IBM Think-themed exhibit at Lincoln Center in 2011.
A walking path at the IBM Poughkeepsie site, with the word "THINK".

"THINK" is a slogan first used by Thomas J. Watson in December, 1911, while managing the sales and advertising departments at the National Cash Register Company.[1] At an uninspiring sales meeting Watson interrupted, saying The trouble with every one of us is that we don't think enough. We don't get paid for working with our feet — we get paid for working with our heads. Watson then wrote THINK on the easel.[2]

Asked later what he meant by the slogan, Watson replied, "By THINK I mean take everything into consideration. I refuse to make the sign more specific. If a man just sees THINK, he'll find out what I mean. We're not interested in a logic course."[3]

In 1914, Watson brought the slogan with him to the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) and its subsidiaries, all of which later became IBM.[4][5][6][7] International Time Recording, one of the subsidiaries, published a magazine, Time, for employees and customers that, in 1935, IBM would rename THINK.[8][9] IBM continues to use the slogan.[10] THINK is also an IBM trademark; IBM named its laptop computers ThinkPads and named a line of business-oriented desktop computers ThinkCentre.

The Apple slogan, "Think Different" has been widely taken as a response to IBM's THINK.[11][12][13]

"THINK" entered the popular culture, often in a humorous context.[14]


  1. ^ Random House Webster's College Dictionary. Random House. 1999. p. 1237.slogan: a distinctive phrase or motto identified with a particular party, product, etc.
  2. ^ Belden, Thomas; Belden, Marva (1962). The Lengthening Shadow: The Life of Thomas J. Watson. Little, Brown and Company. pp. 157–8.
  3. ^ Belden (1962) p.158
  4. ^ IBM Archives: THINK Sign
  5. ^ Maney, Kevin (2003). The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr., and the Making of IBM. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-41463-8.
  6. ^ Tedlow, Richard S. (2003). The Watson Dynasty. Harper Business. ISBN 0-06-001405-9.
  7. ^ Engelbourg, Saul (1954). International Business Machines: A Business History (Ph.D.). Columbia University. pp. 103–105. Reprinted by Arno Press, 1976, from the best available copy. Some text is illegible.
  8. ^ Aswad, Ed; Meredith, Suzanne M. (2005). IBM in Endicott. Arcadia. p. 18.
  9. ^ Cousins, Robert (ed) (1957). The Will to THINK: A Treasury of Ideas and Ideals from the Pages of THINK. Farrar, Straus and Cudahy.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) The books introduction, The Thinking Man, was written by Thomas J. Watson.
  10. ^ Think Exhibit
  11. ^ Clifton, Rita; Ahmad, Sameena (2009). Brands and Branding. The Economist. Bloomberg Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-1576601471.
  12. ^ Altstiel, Tom; Grow, Jean (2005). Advertising Strategy: Creative Tactics from the Outside/In. Sage Publications, Inc. p. 24. ISBN 978-1412917964.
  13. ^ Sull, Donald Norman (2003). Revival of the Fittest: Why Good Companies Go Bad and How Great Managers Remake Them. Harvard Business Review Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-1578519934.
  14. ^ Maney, Kevin (2003). The Maverick and His Machine. Wiley. p. 437.

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