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Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company Paperback – March 16, 1999
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Under Andy Grove's leadership, Intel has become the world's largest chip maker and one of the most admired companies in the world. In Only the Paranoid Survive, Grove reveals his strategy of focusing on a new way of measuring the nightmare moment every leader dreads--when massive change occurs and a company must, virtually overnight, adapt or fall by the wayside.
Grove calls such a moment a Strategic Inflection Point, which can be set off by almost anything: mega-competition, a change in regulations, or a seemingly modest change in technology. When a Strategic Inflection Point hits, the ordinary rules of business go out the window. Yet, managed right, a Strategic Inflection Point can be an opportunity to win in the marketplace and emerge stronger than ever.
Grove underscores his message by examining his own record of success and failure, including how he navigated the events of the Pentium flaw, which threatened Intel's reputation in 1994, and how he has dealt with the explosions in growth of the Internet. The work of a lifetime, Only the Paranoid Survive is a classic of managerial and leadership skills.
The Currency Paperback edition of Only the Paranoid Survive includes a new chapter about the impact of strategic inflection points on individual careers--how to predict them and how to benefit from them.
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1- "Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction. The more successful you are, the more people want a chunk of your business and then another chunk and then another until there is nothing left. I believe that the prime responsibility of a manager is to guard constantly against other people's attacks and to inculcate this guardian attitude in the people under his or her management."
2- "We all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change. We need to expose ourselves to our customers, both the ones who are staying with us as well as those that we may lose by sticking to the past. We need to expose ourselves to lower-level employees, who, when encouraged, will tell us a lot that we need to know. We must invite comments even from people whose job it is to constantly evaluate us and critique us, such as journalist and members of the financial community. Turn the tables and ask them some questions: about competitors, trends in the industry and what they think we should be most concerned with. As we throw ourselves into raw action, our senses and instincts will rapidly be honed again."
3- "A strategic inflection point 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. Before the strategic inflection point, the industry simply was more like the old. After it, it is more like the new. It is a point where the curve has subtly but profoundly changed, never to change back again."
4- "Of all the changes in the forces of competition, the most difficult one to deal with is when one of the forces become so strong that it transforms the very essence of how business is conducted in an industry."
5- "When an industry goes through a strategic inflection point, the practitioners of the old art may have trouble. On the other hand, the new landscape provides an opportunity for people, some of whom may not even be participants in the industry in question, to join and become part of the action."
6- "When a strategic infection point sweeps through the industry, the more successful a participant was in the old industry structure, the more threatened it is by change and the more reluctant it is to adapt to it. Second, whereas the cost to enter a given industry in the face of well-entrenched participants can be very high, when the structure breaks, the cost to enter may become trivially small."
7- "I suspect that the people coming in are probably no better managers or leaders than the people they are replacing. they have only one advantage...the new managers come unencumbered by such emotional involvement and therefore are capable of applying an impersonal logic to the situation."
8- "As these questions to attempt to distinguish signal from noise: 1) Is your key competitor about to change? 2) Is your key complementor about to change? 3) Do people seem to be "losing it" around you?"
9- "I call the divergence between actions and statements strategic dissonance. It is one of the surest indications that a company is struggling with a strategic inflection point."
10- "Ideally, the fear of a new environment sneaking up on us should keep us on our toes. Our sense of urgency should be aided by our judgement, instincts and observations that have been honed by decades spent in the business world. The fact is, because of our experience, very often we managers know that we need to do something. We even know what we should be doing. But we don't trust our instincts or don't act on them early enough to take advantage of the benign business bubble. We must discipline ourselves to overcome our tendency to do too little too late."
The first ~70% of this book is the story of Intel's shift from the memory business to microprocessors when they realized they couldn't keep up with Japanese competition. Lessons gleaned from this experience are that when confronted with big change (what Grove calls a 10X force, for example a big competitor like the Japanese arising, the Walmart business model, the advent of the internet) you have to try to identify if you are in a strategic inflection point (by listening to prophets he calls Cassandras and those in the periphery who are more in touch with the world such as sales people) and react appropriately (by changing your product, your business model, your consumer, etc). Grove does not give a fool proof way of identifying if you are actually facing a strategic inflection point but he does outline some general, practical, common sense guidelines about how to think through these issues for your business. It's interesting to read his analysis on the impact of the internet for Intel (this book was written in the late 90s).
He also coaches you through the psychology of addressing change. Because most people look back and wish they'd made a change earlier, he emphasizes conviction and clarity. He advises us to change when we're doing well in our current state because then we have the momentum to successfully handle the inflection point when it arrives. Lastly he emphasizes the importance of not clinging to old strategies, that success is dangerous because it can create inertia, and thus often new managers are brought in not because they are better thinkers but simply because people can make better decisions if they are not married to the old ways.
To me the most interesting, resonating, applicable part of the book was the last part where he writes we are each CEOs of the business of our own careers. He advises us to use the ideas he had outlined for corporations and apply them to our own lives so that we are ready for change when it inevitably arrives.
My take away from this book is that I should keep make an extra effort to keep informed about opportunities outside my immediate industry and company. When you are deep in the trenches you get sucked into local concerns and it's easy to miss out on what the Cassandras are seeing. Grove had said upper management is often the last to know when a 10x change has occurred and I see how easy this can be a danger in my own life, how I could become absorbed in achieving outdated goals. Persistent re-evaluation of the relevance of my goals will help prevent me from getting stuck in a state that is not high growth.
Grove asked Moore: "If we got kicked out and the Board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?" Moore's quick, no-need-for-thought answer was "he would get us out of memories."
So that's what Grove and Moore did themselves. Until they had played out this odd decision-making device, they did not realize consciously this right answer that would be immediately evident to an outsider. One can take several lessons from this story. The most direct lesson is to ask yourself, when confronted with a seemingly intractable business or personal challenge, what would an outsider with my knowledge but without my "invested capital" choose?
I just finished reading Grove's Only the Paranoid Survive. Though 16 years in the past, Grove's management advice and stories remain worthwhile. I consider the excerpt above to be the best part.
Also see this review at [...] .