14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
While reading and then reviewing most of Richard Tedlow's previous books, I was soon convinced that he is a cultural anthropologist as well as a business historian. With consummate skill, he creates a richly textured context within which he analyzes various corporate executives such as Andrew Carnegie, George Eastman, Henry Ford, Robert Noyce, both Thomas J. Watson, Sr. and Jr., Charles Revson, and Sam Walton. His talents are comparable with those of Joseph J. Ellis and David McCullough. As he explains in the introduction to this book, he interviewed dozens of people about the life and times of Andy Grove, asking each "What would make this book a page-turner for you?" Here are three responses:
"I want to know how he thinks."
"I want to know how all these decisions really did get made."
"I want to know all the stuff that he won't tell you about."
Tedlow provides answers to these and other questions as he rigorously examines "the life and times of an American" who was born András István Gróf in Hungary (in 1936), to a middle-class Jewish family. In 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution, he left his home and family under the cover of night, immigrating to the United States, and arriving in New York in 1957. He then earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the City College of New York and then, after settling in California, he received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963. After working at Fairchild Semiconductor, Grove accepted Gordon Moore's invitation to become the third employee at a start-up, Intel Corporation (Integrated Electronics), of which he eventually became president in 1979, its CEO in 1987, and its chairman and CEO in 1997. He relinquished his CEO title in May 1998 and remained chairman of the board until November 2004. Of special interest to me is Tedlow's explanation of why, given Grove's background, he considers him to be an exemplary American. His reasons are convincing and best revealed within the book's lively narrative.
Others have their own reasons for thinking so highly of this book. Here are three of mine. First, Tedlow immediately establishes and then sustains a personal, almost conversational relationship with his reader. In effect, he says "This is what I have learned about Andy Grove, both from him and from those who know him best." The reader tags along with Tedlow who serves as a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide during an extensive "tour" of Grove's life and times.
I also appreciate the skill with which Tedlow consistently maintains a balance between providing an abundance of biographical and historical details, and, keeping the narrative moving along in a timely manner. Years ago, I read Grove's Swimming Across and then Only the Paranoid Survive. While reading each book, I wished that I could learn more about the background to his countless adventures in Europe and then in the United States. I was especially interested in knowing much more about those with whom Grof and then Grove had the closest associations over the years. Tedlow provides all of this information with the skills of a master raconteur.
My third reason is admittedly a selfish one: I wanted to learn as much as possible from Grove's life and times to help me to gain a better understanding of myself and of my own struggles and relationships in life. Although I certainly never faced the dangers he did, nor will ever achieve what he has, I did (and do) see certain similarities between us other than being born in the same year. For example, his joie de vivre. As Tedlow explains, "He has an insatiable appetite for life's challenges. The old saying - he lives the life he loves and loves the life he lives - applies to Andy Grove more than to most of us." Tedlow brings Grove to life as a man who, in Whitman's words, "is large...contains multitudes."Tracing Grove's life journey (until now) has helped me to understand certain aspects of my own.
Tedlow offers a substantial value-added bonus to his discussion of Grove: a rigorous and sometimes riveting examination of the dynamic, sometimes volatile business world during each "inflection point" in Grove's association with Intel. In some respects, Grove's career is emblematic of the most significant developments in global business which occurred from 1968 when he participated in the founding of Intel until 2005 when he stepped down as its chairman.
Tedlow acknowledges that, despite all that has been written about Grove and despite what Grove himself has shared, notably in his book Swimming Across in which he explains how András István Gróf, Hungarian, became Andrew Stephen Grove, American, he remains somewhat of a mystery. For example, why did he never return to Hungary? "I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe I don't want to remind myself of the events I wrote about. Maybe I want memories to stay memories. Or maybe the reason is simpler than that: My life started over in the United States. I have set roots here. Whatever roots I had in Hungary were cut off when I left and have since withered and died."
Grove's "life and times" are indeed emblematic of almost 40 years of American business history but, in my opinion, they have even greater significance when we take into full account what this nation has meant to millions of others who - like young Gróf -- also had a dream of a much better life, pursued it with courage and determination while overcoming all manner of obstacles, and eventually prospered. He and they remind all of us who were born in the United States that the "American Dream" can become a reality.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to read Grove's Swimming Across and Only the Paranoid Survive as well as Tedlow's earlier books, notably Giants of Enterprise and The Watson Dynasty.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Richard of Connecticut
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a book that every businessman confronted with the problems of rapid change needs to read. Intel the giant technology company is Andy Grove, and Andy Grove is Intel. More than any other single individual, Grove left his footprint on this company. He started off as Intel's 3rd hire; the first two were Gordon Moore, and Bob Noyce, two other Silicon Valley legends. By the time Grove was finished there were tens of thousands of employees.
You might recall that Gordon Moore, Andy's mentor is the creator of the famous "Moore's Law". There are many variations of Moore's Law, and Moore never called it a law by the way. Essentially it means that the computer power that can be placed on a chip doubles every 18 months, some say 2 years, and the cost drops by half. The law has basically held up since its inception in 1965.
Richard Tedlow, the author is a full Professor at Harvard Business School. He has obviously put his heart and soul into this book. Andy Grove did not read this book until it was finished, and published. He did not want to get into a shoot-out about what was in the book. You might recall that Grove wrote several books himself. One of them had the great title, "Only the Paranoid Survive". I believe this biography is better than the books Grove wrote.
Grove has stated that the author knows more about him, than he knows about himself. Upon reading the book, Grove could not figure out how the author was able to obtain so much information about him. In the end, this is what an author is supposed to do, isn't it? The vital concepts that I took out of Tedlow's writings are:
1) Here's a man that should have died three times before he got to America. Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1946, as a Jewish born child he survives the Nazi invasion that included the extermination of 2/3rds of the Jewish population. He develops Scarlet fever, which should have killed him, and then the Russians defeat the Germans, and Andy survives the Russians who killed thousands of additional Hungarians.
2) Andy takes the enormously difficult step of leaving everything, his parents, his homeland, his friends, his groundings, and literally walks out of Hungary in the middle of the night during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. Keep in mind, there's no Internet, no television pictures of America, nothing to base a move on. He simply demonstrates undaunted courage in walking away from everything that is familiar.
3) He makes it to the US, lives with an aunt and uncle in the Bronx, and goes to City College of NY because it's free and he has zero money. Graduating number 1 in his engineering class, he goes to California, and winds up at Berkeley where he earns a Ph.D.
4) He knew how to find MENTORS though, and this is a vital part of the book. You find great men, and MANAGE UP the relationship. From world renowned college professors, to the best known technical geniuses in the business world which include legends Robert Noyce, and Gordon Moore, Andy Grove knew how to hitch his wagon to STARS.
Grove walks out of Fairchild Semiconductor to form Intel with Moore and Noyce with the financing provided by Arthur Rock, the most famous venture capitalist in Silicon Valley history bar none. Moore and Noyce get all the stock and Grove gets to buy in at a price ten times higher, even though he's the number three guy in the company. He handled it well though. It did not seem to interfere with what he had to do. A lot of people would have had problems with the stock distribution from day one. I do Venture Capital as part of my business, I know.
Here's a man who puts his nose to the grindstone, and comes up a winner. There are several hundred pages devoted to how Andy Grove transforms himself out of necessity into a businessman, something very few people in Silicon Valley know anything about. While the two big guys are getting all the credit, it's Grove who keeps the place alive during the massive up-and-down cycles that this industry experienced over 2 plus decades.
You could very much make the case that if Andy Grove did not exist, than Intel would have never survived to be the company we all recognize today as the number one producer of sophisticated microprocessors in the world. It's really all Grove. Science, and technology will only take you so far. In the end, you have to make a product that people, or companies want to buy. You have to make it reliable, and affordable.
Moore and Noyce could create such microprocessors without Andy Grove. Could they replicate them tens of thousands of times perfectly without Grove, not in a million years? Grove's internal gift was his ability to take his own massive brainpower, and be flexible enough to apply it to areas outside his expertise, or circle of competence, as Warren Buffett likes to talk about.
In closing, I went through the whole book, and circled the words and phrases that the author used to describe Grove. Read some of these: He did not hesitate, he wasn't frozen with fear. He had a survival strategy hardwired into him. He moves fast, is decisive, and effective. He is not weighed down by the past. He learned a tough, brusque, no-nonsense behavior.
When you are done reading this book, you will have lived in this man's shoes for a while. You will know what it was like to live Andy Grove's life. You can try on that life if you will, and see if this is the sort of life you would like to have lived. That's what great reading is all about, isn't it?