One of my all-time favorite business books, and a huge influence on my leadership philosophy is Andy Grove’s “Only the Paranoid Survive.”
Grove participated in the founding of Intel, and went on to become President, then CEO and Chairmen. Under his leadership, Intel became the 7th most profitable company among the Fortune 500, and he was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 1997.
In his book, Grove discusses strategic inflection points, how leaders must identify them, and lead their teams through them.
What is a “strategic inflection point?”
- Grove defines a strategic inflection point as a time in the life of a business or project when its fundamentals are changing significantly. Often, “point” is really a misnomer, and it’s actually a long, sometimes painful, period of change.
- To me, strategic inflection points are those times and decisions that make or break your business, your project, your Client relationship, your Executive’s view of you, etc.
- You could also look at Strategic Inflection Points as Tipping Points as well (based on Malcolm Gladwell’s popular book The Tipping Point, another must-read).
Leadership Tips from This Book:
- Only those who constantly try to anticipate change will survive when change happens.
- Seek the opinions of all around you, as they are usually in touch with impending change sooner than you are.
- Encourage debate at all costs. The most important tool in identifying a strategic inflection point is broad and intensive debate.
- Don’t justify holding back because you don’t know the answers – seek them out as fast as you can.
- Give your most considered opinion, and give it clearly and forcefully.
3 Questions Every Leader Should Ask Themselves:
- Am I actively seeking opinions from everyone possible, regardless of their title?
- Is our key competitor about to change? (Note: if you can’t clearly answer who that key competitor is, something significant is definitely going on.)
- Do people seem to be “losing it” – or that they increasingly don’t “get it” – around you? (Note: if so, they are likely applying old solutions to a new problem, a sign that you are in a strategic inflection point.)
4 Favorite Quotes:
- In times of change, managers almost always know which direction they should go in, but usually act too late and do too little.
- Businesses fail either because they leave their customers – i.e. they change a strategy that worked for them in the past – or because their customers leave them.
- Strategic inflection points provide an opportunity to break out of a plateau and catapult to a higher level of achievement.
- No statues will be carved for leaders who charge off on the wrong side of a complex decision.
Other Bloggers talking about this book and Andy Grove:
- The Bizness Blawg: “How Paranoia Can Actually Make You Successful“
- Changing Way: “Andy Grove’s Book Survives“
- Innovate Blog/Podcast: “An Interview with Andy Grove, former CEO and Chairman of Intel“