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Andy Grove on The Importance of an Outsider’s Perspective

Stashed in: Decisions, CEOs, @bhorowitz, Management, Awesome, @a16z, Intel

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My favorite story from the book was how Grove came to discover the importance of having an outsider’s perspective as a manager. 

In the 1980s Intel was seeing heavy competition in their main business line from Japanese technology companies. There was some serious soul searching going on for how to proceed since it was becoming apparent the current strategy wasn’t going to work:

I remember a time in the middle of 1985, after this aimless wandering had been going on for almost a year. I was in my office with Intel’s chairman and CEO, Gordon Moore, and we were discussing our quandary. Our mood was downbeat. I looked out the window at the Ferris Wheel of the Great America amusement park revolving in the distance, then I turned back to Gordon and asked, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?” Gordon answered without hesitation, “He would get us out of memories.” I stared at him, numb, then said, “Why don’t you and I walk out the door, come back in and do it ourselves?”

It was a difficult decision for management to make, but others could already see the writing on the wall, including their customers:

In fact, when we informed them of the decision, some of them reacted with the comment, “It sure took you a long time.” People who have no emotional stake in a decision can see what needs to be done sooner.

These moves always sound easy when you read about them in a book, but it takes a lot of gumption to make that kind of change. I love his idea of using an outsider’s perspective at an inflection point:

If existing management want to keep their jobs when the basics of the business are undergoing profound change, they must adopt an outsider’s intellectual objectivity. They must do what they need to do to get through the strategic inflection point unfettered by any emotional attachment to the past. That’s what Gordon and I had to do when we figuratively went out the door, stomped out our cigarettes and returned to the job.

Ben Horowitz from Andreessen Horowitz shared an older piece he wrote on another of Grove’s books that is also worth checking out: Introduction to High Output Management (a16z)

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