Music and the Spoken Word: What a CEO of IBM taught about the value of good thinking

Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast. This will be given Sept. 30, 2018.

Thomas Watson Sr. served for many years as the CEO of IBM and built the company into an international success. The story is told that during a business meeting in 1911, Watson became frustrated by the lack of good ideas being generated. "The trouble with every one of us is that we don't think enough," he declared. "Knowledge is the result of thought, and thought is the keynote of success in this business or any business."

Today, the word think adorns the walls of IBM buildings everywhere and remains at the heart of the company’s identity.

No one would dispute the value of good thinking, but sometimes we're so busy doing that we don't take time to stop and think and learn. In our eagerness to get things done, we may worry that whenever we aren’t busy acting — or acting busy — we're wasting time. But in reality, our work is most effective when it’s informed by good thinking, and that takes time.

Pausing to think and learn can be time well spent. It's how we progress and improve. As one professor wrote: "We live and work today in a learning economy. We can’t just be knowledge workers; we must also be learning workers. And learning requires recharging and reflection, not constant action." Life never stops teaching, so we must never stop learning.

Wise lifelong learners seek not to impress others but to help others. They find joy in expanding their awareness and understanding of a broad range of subjects. They are curious and courageous in the pursuit of knowledge and are humbly willing, even anxious, to share with others what they’ve learned. To a lifelong learner, thinking is not just about self-improvement, it’s also about other-improvement.

And what should we be thinking about? It may be as simple as asking ourselves questions like "What can I learn?" "What can I share?" "What can I improve?" Life isn’t getting any less busy, but we can manage that busyness better if we just take time to think.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM,, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143) and on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's website and YouTube channel. The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at

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