Only the Paranoid Survive

Andy Grove is credited with saying the phrase “Only the Paranoid Survive”. I happened to read his book of the same name. It was an interesting read. The main premise is that every company/industry will experience strategic inflection points at which they can be knocked off or use that to spur them on to further growth. Strategic inflection points are what happen to a business when a major change takes place that could shake up your company. It is when the balance of forces shifts from the old structure, from the old ways of doing business and the old ways of competing to the new. 
 An example is what happened to Intel in mid-1980’s. At that time Intel’s main market was in memory chips but the Japanese stormed the market with much better quality levels and nearly swept Intel of its perch. Intel was competing with the Japanese producer's high quality, low priced, mass produced parts. It is at this time that Andy Grove while with Gordon Moore famously said he looked out of the window from his office at the Ferris wheel of the Great America amusement park revolving in the distance and remarked “If we were kicked out and the board hired a new CEO what would he do? The answer was he would get out of the memory business.” He then said "Why shouldn't you and I walk out the door, come back and do it ourselves?" 
It is amazing how a simple piece of intuition like that can change the course of business history.  This decision resulted in Intel focusing all its energies in the business of microprocessors and they succeeded BIG TIME. 
The lessons to learn are
  1. Never ignore your intuition
  2. Never think that your current source of income is going to last forever
  3. Be prepared to change course and abandon your original cash cow
  4. Always be on guard for change
  5. Study your competition and take action
  6. Listen to your middle managers and folks on the ground as they have the best information
  7. You have to understand when a strategic inflection point is going to occur and take action 
I also liked his advice on managing ones career. Ultimately we have no guarantee of lifelong employment any more. You are in charge of your career not your organization. Think of yourself as a company with one employee which is you. You are your own boss and responsible for everything that happens to your career. 
I think this is great advice. The race is on and we are in it. The only question is whether we are going to do all we can to bring the best out of ourselves and navigate successfully through the inevitable Strategic Inflection Points or not. I believe Andy Grove hit the nail on the head when he said “Only the Paranoid Survive.”

The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.


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