Andy Grove is the top man at Intel. He has worked at the company since it was set up in 1968, taking over as chief executive in 1987 and as chairman earlier this year. Born in Budapest in 1936, he moved to the US in 1956. After receiving a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, he joined the R&D Lab at Fairchild Semiconductor, moving to Intel in 1968 when it was set up by Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce. Under Grove, Intel has grown to dominate the microprocessor business, and has been one of the world?s most consistently profitable companies.
When it comes to business, I believe in the value of paranoia. Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction. The more successful you are, the more people want a chunk of your business. The prime responsibility of managers is to guard constantly against other people?s attacks and to hammer home this guardian attitude to the people they manage. I am paranoid about a variety of things. I worry about products getting screwed up and about them being released prematurely. I am anxious over factories not performing well and also about having too many factories. I worry about hiring the right people and about staff morale. And, of course, I am anxious about competitors. I worry that other people will work out a better or cheaper way of doing what we do, and that they will take our customers. But these worries pale in comparison to how I feel about what I call strategic inflection points. This is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights; but it could just as likely signal the beginning of the end. Strategic inflection points can be caused by technological change, but they are more than just this. They can be caused by rivals, but they are more than just competition. They are full-scale changes in the way business is done. Simply adopting new technology or fighting the competition as you used to may not be enough. They build up force so insidiously that it may be difficult even putting a finger on what has changed. Although you can be the subject of a strategic inflection point, you can also be the cause of one. Intel has been both. In the mid 1980s, the Japanese memory producers caused an inflection point so overwhelming that Intel was forced out of the memory chip market into the relatively new field of microprocessors. Intel?s microprocessor business has since caused the mother of all inflection points for other companies. But strategic inflection points, while often brought about by technology, are not restricted to technological industries. They are about fundamental change in any business. They can affect you, regardless of your job. The lessons of handling strategic inflection points are similar, whether you?re dealing with a company or your own career. If you run a business, you must recognise that no amount of planning can anticipate such changes. You need to prepare in the same way as a fire department plans. It cannot anticipate where the next fire will be so has to shape an energetic and efficient team that can respond to the unexpected, as well as to ordinary events. If you are an employee, sooner or later you will be affected by a strategic inflection point. Who knows what your job will look like after cataclysmic change sweeps through your industry and engulfs the company you work for? Who knows if your job will even exist and, frankly, who will care except you? When companies no longer have life-long careers themselves, how can they provide one for their staff? As businesses are created on new foundations or restructured to operate in a new environment, careers are broken or accelerated. No one owes you a career. Your career is literally your business. It is up to you to protect it from harm and to position it so that it can benefit from change. Taken from Only The Paranoid Survive by Andrew S Grove, published by HarperCollins Business, ISBN 0-002-558-106, #20. Reproduced by permission. The Web site is at www. harpercollins.co.uk.
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