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Only the Paranoids Survive (Andy Grove)

2003-06-26 3 min read Books marco

That’s one book that came with high praise!
Only the Paranoids Survive is the kind of book you have to have read to be able to keep up with everyone else that constantly talks about it. And like any required reading, I was a little uncomfortable with this one, trying to fend it off and push it away as long as I could.
The first chapter than did it for me. A long rant about things that I already intimately knew, with definitions of things that were absolutely obvious: PLEASE!
Turns out that what was so familiar to me actually required definition, and that from that first chapter of setting the stage, the book soon entered incredibly valuable territory. Grove charted what was tantamount to one of the most radically success stories in today’s business world, proving how there was method behind the choices that Intel had made.
All in all, the book was an amazing read. FInding out that Grove’s team thinks of conflict in meetings as a way of expressing creativity was refreshing, considering the level and ‘nice’ way of behaving in the Valley. That there actually had been a major crisis in the company BEFORE the Pentium debacle; not only had I forgotten that, I was reminded by the book that it was quite a terminal danger for the company.
Towards the end, the book starts looking at the present and past, and starts reading like Nostradamus’s prophecies. As long as they talk about the past, everything is in perfect order and logic reigns supreme; but as soon as the then present and the then future are concerned, predictions are random and arbitrary and ultimately, in hindsight, plain wrong.
The one chapter on the Internet is particularly interesting, given that the book was published in 1998. It shows, at least, that indeed Intel must accept better judgement, since the company did not follow the predictions of the chairman.
The language of the book is very narrative and gets lost only when Grove talks about abstract things or the future. As many leading business people, he is best where he is comfortable, and his passion surely comes out best when he talks about Intel and Intel’s achievements.
Oh – the title: it is meant in a much nicer way than I had interpreted first. Sounds like ‘Only the Paranoids Survive’ just means: ‘Watch Out, Or They’ll Eat You’. Nothing of the world conspiracy that it seemed to imply.
All in all a ‘must read’ for people in the computer business. Or people stuck in a culture in which consensus is a must, niceness a requirement, and hence everything needs to be dumbed down.