Remembering Andy Grove - Only the Paranoid Survive


 Andy Grove was one of the greatest business leaders of all time. He left us on March 21st 2016 and remembering him as one of the great leaders who has impacted the world. Here is the summary below of his outstanding book "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. 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 I gleaned from the legendary Andy Grove are mentioned below.


Never ignore your intuition - Your intuition as a business leader is one of the keys to take some decisions to innovate or move out of existing markets.

Never think that your current source of income is going to last forever - You can never be complacent with your current success. Keep innovating and lets remember what happened to Kodak can happen to anyone or any organization.

Be prepared to change course and abandon your original cash cow - This was one of the favorite principles from Peter Drucker. He said knowing what I now know will I continue doing this. If not get out of that business immediately.

Always be on guard for change- Change is the only constant in an era of deep commoditization and 

Study your competition and take action - I would also suggest make your competition study you and leave them breathless with your victories.

Listen to your middle managers and folks on the ground as they have the best information - Keep your pulse on the ground realities through your front line managers.

You have to understand when a strategic inflection point is going to occur and take action - This is where the leader at the top can be most effective. If they can sense a change in consumer tastes or change in perception they can prepare the company towards a new direction which enables them to navigate the strategic inflection points with ease.

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." So stay hungry, make changes and navigate all strategic inflection points with winning strategies.


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

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