Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?

Inside IBM's Historic Turnaround
Narrated by: Edward Herrmann
Length: 8 hrs and 29 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (743 ratings)

Audible membership

$14.95 a month

Free with a 30-day trial
1 audiobook of your choice.
A monthly selection of Audible Originals.
$14.95 a month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $25.09

Buy for $25.09

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

In 1990, IBM had its most profitable year ever. By 1993, the company was on a watch list for extinction, victimized by its own lumbering size, an insular corporate culture, and the PC era IBM had itself helped invent.

Enter Lou Gerstner. The presumption was that Gerstner had joined IBM to preside over its continued dissolution into a confederation of autonomous business units, effectively eliminating the corporation that had invented many of the industry's most important technologies. Instead, Gerstner took hold of the company, making the bold decision to keep it together, defiantly announcing, "The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision."

Told in Lou Gerstner's own words, this is a story of an extraordinary turnaround, a case study in managing a crisis, and a thoughtful reflection on the computer industry and the principles of leadership. Summing up his historic business achievement, Gerstner recounts high-level meetings, explains the no-turning-back decisions that had to be made, and offers his hard-won conclusions about the essence of what makes a great company run.

©2002 Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. (P)2002 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A well-rendered self-portrait of a CEO who made spectacular change on the strength of personal leadership." (Publishers Weekly)
"Edward Herrmann's pacing and understated connection with the material in this memoir makes the audio seem compact and relaxed. The writing is also outstanding, lacking excessive pride or self-congratulation....An essential volume for anyone interested in technology, large organizations, or IBM's miraculous rebirth under Gerstner's leadership." (AudioFile)

What listeners say about Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    396
  • 4 Stars
    245
  • 3 Stars
    82
  • 2 Stars
    10
  • 1 Stars
    10
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    261
  • 4 Stars
    135
  • 3 Stars
    25
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    5
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    263
  • 4 Stars
    125
  • 3 Stars
    31
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    7

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Moderate Start, Picks up FAST!

Upon starting this book, I felt like I was listening to a rather large ego telling me how great he was. But it rapidly became a great listen. I found his discussion of the evolution of the computer industry, and how IBM had to re-invent itself to fit the new paradigm, clear and true to what I've watched happening in the IT world.

Disk 5 was outstanding in his discussion of how he expected managers to be part of the solution, not spectators and supervisors of it. And his views on where the internet is going are extremely insightful.

A Must-Listen that finishes strong. A sure winner for anyone with an interest in IT, IT Companies, or our Business world and its IT components.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Deflated

I was unexpectedly disappointed by this book. After reading the glowing reviews from others, I expected an inspiring, insightful review of the amazing things done at IBM in one of the most remarkable turn-arounds ever -- my hopes were deflated. What I got out of this was a combination of kind words for those long time IBMers who helped, and advertising for IBM's positioning for future stock growth. Mr. York's role in achieving the turn around was grossly under-promoted, as few of the structural cost improvements would have been achieved without him, and there was little insight shared on how Mr. Gerstner came to determine the specific changes that were made. Further, the last third of the book is spent delivering Mr. Gerstner's political perspective on everything from schools to charitable contributions. Not a recommended read.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Book, But I'm Biased

I loved this book. I have been a huge fan of IBM since my younger years and was aware of the possible breakup of "Big Blue" in the early 90's. I didn't even have a clue as to how bad it was though. Amazing to see how some of the old guard behemoths get bogged down with the "that's the way we've always done it" attitude and slowly sink into the dinosaur tar pits. Gerstner did a miracle if you ask me after having listened to his accounts of internal processes and procedures gone mad. I recommend the unabridged for those that like to hear it all, and I am not a business book person. I especially liked the narrator selection.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Engrossing

As someone who was working at IBM up to just prior to the time covered in this book, I found it engrossing as well as very indicative of the situation at the time. This book is an excellent discourse on corporate culture and how change has to occur from the top to be effective. Having lived through some failed attempts at other companies, this is a good blueprint with anecdotal history of how a company goes about properly re-inventing itself.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Quite stimulating

An intellectually stimulating book. Well written and well narrated. An excellent one to listen to for leaders and employees of large institutions.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Big Blue

The best corporate case study I have read. The key impact of this writing lay in the knowledge I’ve gained in understanding the importance of creating a sense of urgency in all things we pursue. Great summary of good corporate governance and organizational change. This book should be on the reading list of all undergraduate and MBA students globally.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Did the Elephants dance

The book was astonishing and show's the resilience, dedication, discipline, love and passion of so many!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome Audio Business Bio - My Personal Favorite

My personal all-time favorite. It may not connect with everyone, but is a great business bio about the former CEO of IBM. The book tells the story of IBM at the peak of it's decline in the early 90's and the lengths the CEO and other executives went to stabilize and turn the company around. Well written and perfectly read by Edward Herrman (Actor from Lost Boys, Annie, Richie Rich, etc).

The story starts with Mr. Gerstner being recruited into IBM (despite not having a tech background) to turn the giant around in the early '90's. The company was set to be broken apart to sell off the various divisions prior to his arrival. Once on the playing field, Mr Gerstner ultimately decides to keep the company together. Plenty of acknowledgements of other executives with numerous stories and learning points for the reader.

A bit dated today in a few areas, but the story and strategy takeaways hold up just as good today as they did back then. Should a required read (or listen) for any MBA candidate. Highly recommend.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Honest. Real. Applicable. Actionable advice

Lou does an amazing job sharing his experience and journey at IBM. How he brought it back from near extinction to prominence.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

surprisingly insightful and plain for a biz exec

I was interested in hearing the details of how IBM fell so hard and how it turned around, but expected a more emotional and romantic telling if the story. Gerstner's approach is instead somewhat dry (most of the time) in a good way, and he painted a decent picture of a turnaround driven by sweat and focus, rather than inspiration.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jacob
  • Jacob
  • 03-22-13

Really enjoyed it.

Nice easy listen and a fascinating story. I usually opt for books narrated by the author as they have more emotion. However Edward Herrmann really brings the story to life, and boy what a story!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for D. W. Chandler
  • D. W. Chandler
  • 02-06-11

Very Good

Excellent listen - how someone with little IT skills transformed IBM - one of, if not , the most important companies in the world. Rare business book thats worth more than one listen.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Juan Fandino
  • Juan Fandino
  • 12-12-19

Brilliant book

We all take different thjngs from books due to our own biases and personalities, none the less I believe this book has something for everybody and the story is captivating to say the least, combining technicalities with narrative.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 04-17-19

interesting but a difficult listen

struggled at times. often had to re-listen to parts. narrator not the best. otherwise good.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for N A
  • N A
  • 10-29-18

brilliant history fantastic insight into technolog

great story and mixture between a biography of IBM and at the end there is a few chapters on current technology and the potential future. Definitely worth a listen. there are quite a few insights into the culture of IBM such as the personal assistants of the executives. It will be quite interesting to hear what actually happened with some of these changes, there are a lot of comments on how IBM was but not necessarily what he did practically to do it. But the philosophy behind it is timeless and worth Reading if you are at all interested in IBM, technology leadership or just business in general. Despite being a 20-year-old book it is highly relevant now still

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jennifers Daddy
  • Jennifers Daddy
  • 03-19-18

Great

This was just the right length and did not repeat itself. It's the perfect business case study. Ultimately it comes down to culture and people. Why don't more CEOs understand that?

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-11-17

awesome

It depends if this type of book is your bag but for me it got better and better as you got deeper into the story. Chapters must be different between the audio and the book but in the audio chapters 9 and 10 will be regular repeats for me. You cannot fail to be struck by the enormity of IBM. the figures and quantities are staggering. During the last chapter it struck home that this book was written in 2002 showing there is no age to good business or this book. The same problems have been and will continue to be the same forever. Timeless common sense from someone skilled enough to turnaround a company bigger than many economies from near bankruptcy to success in 7 years. Awesome.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for mp
  • mp
  • 02-06-16

A marvelous book.

If you could sum up Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? in three words, what would they be?

Action, implementation and courage.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Mr. Gerstner. I admire him so much. He has changed my view about IBM and showed me how this huge first class company works.

What about Edward Herrmann’s performance did you like?

Top one.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Absolutely. All the process of this phenomenal turnaround kept me on my toes.

Any additional comments?

A phenomenal performance we cannot see every day.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Joshua
  • Joshua
  • 02-19-14

20 YRS LATER & THE PRINCIPLES COULD STILL APPLY

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
Having an interest in software companies and seeing how they evolve is fascinating to me, and seeing how a "non - Software" executive dealt with the sinking ship with a business strategy was very interesting to me since we are always told how great Gates and Jobs are...

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Craig Forster
  • Craig Forster
  • 04-14-13

Great insight to major corporate change

My company is going through a major transformation and I found this a really interesting insight to similar major changes at IBM and how one leader dealt with this. It covers the highs and lows/challenges and successes. IBM is clearly a massive complex entity and I was fascinated how such complexity still in the end has to be able to be summarised and netted out to understandable language and concepts. One gets the impression from the book that Gerstner brought this executive ability to take a helicopter view of things. He also was prepared to take tough decisions.