I read with sadness this morning of the passing of Andrew Grove, the former CEO and Chairman of Intel, who died recently at age 79. Andy, as I preferred to think of him, was one of my primary sources of inspiration when it came to understanding how and why businesses undergo radical change at certain times in their history.
In 1996 Andy Grove authored a personal memoir titled “Only the Paranoid Survive”. It went on to become a business classic, not only in Silicon Valley but worldwide. It is among my very favorite business books, one that really transcends its genre by providing clear and concise guidance that is relevant not just in business but in life.
As the title suggests, “Only the Paranoid Survive” deals with the theme of strategic inflection points. Andy knew this subject well from first-hand experience. As Michael Malone notes in his eulogy in the Wall Street Journal, Andy – together with his Intel co-founders Gordon Moore (author of “Moore’s Law”) and Robert Noyce – had to navigate numerous strategic inflection points as they led Intel from memory chips into microprocessors and sustained Intel’s leadership in an industry where the half-life of a product is measured in months, not years.
In many ways Andy’s leadership of the development of Silicon Valley stands in parallel with the accomplishments of other great technology leaders such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, although Andy never received similar acclaim.
One of my good friends, Professor Rashi Glazer, is the former head of the marketing department at the Haas Business School at UC Berkeley. Professor Glazer says that in his experience working with leading corporations across the globe, the single most important factor correlating with overall corporate success was the sense of urgency on the part of the management team. Andy Grove understood what urgency means and why it is a critical ingredient to survive and thrive. Rest in peace Andy.