Only The Paranoid Survive
This is one of those book titles that raises eyebrows. I read it in the early 2000’s. And raised my eyebrows. In that “oh wow” kind of way.
The author of this book, Andrew Grove wasn’t really advocating a state of paranoia. He was helping readers understand what he called a “Strategic Inflection Point” that occurs when massive change happens and a leader must make extremely critical decisions quickly with survive-or-perish consequences.
As Intel’s “employee one,” Grove was there for the founding of the company in 1968 and went on to become it’s CEO from 1979 to 1998, and remained Chairman until stepping down in 2005. Only The Paranoid Survive was published in 1999.
Andrew Grove died in March and I just caught the news a few days ago. I never met Grove, worked for Intel, or even worked in the industry. But his life’s work and lessons as a leader are memorable to me, and his passing gave me cause to pick up his book again and look through it.
I leave you with this brief excerpt from The Economist magazine article on his passing, his accomplishments, and how we’ve become better leaders because of him.
“Mr Grove achieved all this by embracing management methods that are now so common that they pass without comment, but were then strikingly new. He attacked corporate hierarchy and devolved power to front-line workers. He combined this with an obsession for measurement and performance-related rewards: top performers got juicy stock options; and weak performers were shown the door. Under the slogan “Intel inside”, he ensured that the firm’s processors became branded goods, not commodities. Under his leadership it increased annual revenues from $1.9 billion to more than $26 billion and made millionaires of hundreds of employees.”
“Mr Grove’s genius was as an organisation-builder and manager rather than as an innovator. His most obvious quality was his fierce intelligence. He could be difficult—hot-tempered when confronted with idiocy, prickly when challenged. He believed in the value of “creative confrontation” (which sometimes meant screaming matches). His successful management book, published in 1996, was called “Only the Paranoid Survive”. Possessed of a fierce work ethic, he drove his subordinates as hard as he drove himself. But this combination of characteristics was exactly what was needed in the infant semiconductor industry.”