Only the Paranoid Survive – Andrew Grove

4 March 2019
Only the Paranoid Survive Book Cover Only the Paranoid Survive
Andrew S. Grove
Business & Economics
Gardners Books

The President and CEO of Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, reveals how to identify and exploit the key moments of change in any industry that generates either drastic failure or incredible success. Under Andrew Grove's leadership, Intel has become the world's largest computer chipmaker, the 5th most admired company in America, and the 7th most profitable company among the Fortune 500. Few CEOs can claim this level of success. Grove attributes much of it to the philosophy and strategy he has learned the hard way as he steered Intel through a series of potential major disasters. There are moments in any business when massive change occurs, when all the rules of business shift fast, furiously and forever. Grove calls such moments strategic inflection points (SIPs), and he has lived through several. They can be set off by almost anything - by mega competition, an arcane change in regulations, or by a seemingly modest change in technology. They are not always easy to spot - but you can't hide from them. Intel's first SIP was when the Japanese started producing better-quality, lower-cost memory chips. It took Grove three years and huge losses to recognize that he had to rethink and reposition the company to become, once again, leader in its field.Grove extrapolates the lessons he has learned from this and other SIPs - for instance the drama of the Pentium flaw, and the SIP brought on by the Internet - to reveal a unique insight into the management of change. He recounts strategies from other companies and examines his own record of success and failure. Only the Paranoid Survive is a classic lesson in leadership skills that every manager in every industry will benefit from. Every manager must assume that something will change - very soon.


The strategies and decisions, and luck, Intel embraced are remarkable and to cover them all in detail in a short book would have been impossible. The fundamental essence of this book is that the only constant we can expect in business is CHANGE. How do we anticipate it? How do we prepare for that point where we either change or die? The ones we sometimes see coming and the ones we don’t. That Inflection Point. Can we recognise or anticipate change or do we create processes that enable us to rapidly respond once the change is obvious?

For well-established market leaders that fail, this is typically why. History is littered with huge multi-national companies that failed to see the change and respond effectively – they don’t exist anymore. Intel was nearly one of those companies but this book provides very interesting insight and the remarkable thinking that existed within Intel at the time to deal with the pivot necessary to save their business.

The book is written with the flow of a story, which helps it resonate well. It also reminds us that many decisions involve agonising analysis and reasoning, and are extremely personal. The book is full of Grove’s war stories which are really interesting and relevant as we lived through many of these events. A good point that I remember from the book is when Andrew Grove recollects his darkest moment ‘when he realised that not only were the Japanese cheaper in manufacturing memory chips, but their quality levels were at levels that Intel didn’t even think possible’. Intel’s move away from memory to microprocessors was traumatic and the inflection “point” was not so much a point as a long drawn out and painful affair. The backdrop to that inflection point and other points, make this book a great learning experience.

I love the term and the concept Only the Paranoid Survive,which in business keeps us on our toes worrying about that change which is inevitably coming. This is a short easy read that I would recommend.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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