Think (IBM)

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Thomas J Watson Sr.jpg
Thomas J. Watson, who led IBM from 1914 to 1956, discussing the company's motto "THINK"

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Think signs in several languages
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
Think exhibit at Lincoln Center in 2011.
A walking path at the IBM Poughkeepsie site, with the word "THINK" engraved.

"THINK" is a motto coined by Thomas J. Watson in December, 1911, while managing the sales and advertising departments at the National Cash Register Company. 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.[1]

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."[2]

In 1914, Watson brought the motto with him to Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR), which later was renamed IBM.[3][4][5][6] International Time Recording, one of the companies consolidated to form CTR, published a magazine, Time, for employees and customers that, in 1935, IBM would rename to THINK.[7][8] IBM produced a THINK exhibit at New York City's Lincoln Center in September 2011, and continues to use the motto.[9] 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.[10][11][12]

"THINK" entered the popular culture, often in a humorous context.[13] For early examples, see Corey Ford's Guide to Thinking.[14] Mad magazine also used a "THINK" parody motto [15] along with using the word directly on the cover of the last Mad comic book issue #23 from May 1955.[16]


  1. ^ Belden, Thomas; Belden, Marva (1962). The Lengthening Shadow: The Life of Thomas J. Watson. Little, Brown and Company. pp. 157–8. 
  2. ^ Belden (1962) p.158
  3. ^ IBM Archives: THINK Sign
  4. ^ Maney, Kevin (2003). The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr., and the Making of IBM. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-41463-8.
  5. ^ Tedlow, Richard S. (2003). The Watson Dynasty. Harper Business. ISBN 0-06-001405-9.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Aswad, Ed; Meredith, Suzanne M. (2005). IBM in Endicott. Arcadia. p. 18. 
  8. ^ Cousins, Robert (ed) (1957). The Will to THINK: A Treasury of Ideas and Ideals from the Pages of THINK. Farrar, Straus and Cudahy.  The books introduction, The Thinking Man, was written by Thomas J. Watson.
  9. ^ Think Exhibit
  10. ^ Clifton, Rita; Ahmad, Sameena (2009). Brands and Branding. The Economist. Bloomberg Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-1576601471. 
  11. ^ Altstiel, Tom; Grow, Jean (2005). Advertising Strategy: Creative Tactics from the Outside/In. Sage Publications, Inc. p. 24. ISBN 978-1412917964. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Maney, Kevin (2003). The Maverick and His Machine. Wiley. p. 437. 
  14. ^ Ford, Corey (1961). Guide to Thimking. Doubleday. 
  15. ^ Mad magazine THIMK
  16. ^ Mad comic #23, May 1955

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