Andy Grove Hardcover – Nov 7 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
In this highly readable but deliberately paced biography, Harvard professor and historian Tedlow (Giants of Enterprise) makes a case for Andy Grove (b. 1936) taking a place alongside Benjamin Franklin as a quintessential American businessman and citizen. Indeed, Grove rose from being a penniless Hungarian refugee to an engineer hired as Intel's third employee, eventually heading the corporation—"one of the most profitable companies in all of business history." Tedlow builds the book around a year-by-year, blow-by-blow account of Intel's ups and downs, punctuated by Grove's contemporaneous musings, drawn from his private notebooks. Following the company over the rocky patches in its trajectory from semiconductors to microprocessors, Tedlow situates Intel among its industry partners and competitors. Sometimes, there's too much context: the author conveys a good deal about Hungary's modern political history and scrutinizes every available scrap of information about his subject's childhood. There are also 20 pages on the 1994 Pentium "floating point flaw" debacle and 15 pages on Grove's battle with prostate cancer. But as a biography of Intel as well as a primer on Grove's writings and management philosophy, the book is truly illuminating. In offering a closeup portrait of this prickly but gifted executive, Tedlow helps us understand why Grove's tenure as Intel's CEO "was so spectacularly successful." (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Tedlow, a business historian and academic, presents the story of Andy Grove, a penniless Hungarian immigrant who became an icon of twentieth-century corporate America. Grove joined Intel in 1968 at its founding, and while he was CEO from 1987 to 1998, "market capitalization increased from $4.3 billion to $197.6 billion, a compound annual growth rate of 42% and a total increase of almost 4,500%." Grove led the company with Intel's 386 microprocessor, which became the industry standard. Tedlow describes Grove, Time magazine's 1997 man of the year, as an extraordinary manager, author, and significant player in the fights against prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease. With unique access to Grove and Intel's internal resources and documents, Tedlow claims objectivity, telling the truth as he sees it in this laudatory narrative, although he also confirms his close ties to the subject. In comparing Grove to Benjamin Franklin (among other notables), Tedlow tells us that the two share the traits of "care and skill at image management." Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"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.
Nonetheless, the more personal story behind Grove will interest many readers since his background reflects a remarkable transformation under the most adverse of circumstances. Born a Jew in 1936 Nazi-occupied Hungary when anti-Semitic laws were being fully enforced, Grove managed to survive not only the Nazi regime but the post-WWII Communist takeover. During the bloody Hungarian Revolution, he left his family and escaped to the U.S. when he was twenty. Penniless, he worked his way to a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Berkeley in 1963. He worked his way up from Fairchild Semiconductors, where they introduced the first integrated circuit, to become the fourth employee of Intel and begin an impressive upward climb.
This is where Tedlow provides sharp insight into Grove's clever navigation though Intel's management structure under co-founders Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce, and more importantly, how Grove became an acknowledged leader in Silicon Valley for his groundbreaking thinking. The author vividly shows how Grove transformed the company in 1986 from a memory device company to one focused on microprocessors in response to the cannibalization of the memory market by the then-threatening Japanese. Intriguingly, Tedlow ties the fears imbedded in Grove's persecution-filled childhood in Hungary to the fears he used as a motivating force to move ahead of the competition at Intel. It became clear that Grove knew a sense of certainty and constancy would be tantamount to suicide when it came to making the company thrive, and as Tedlow meticulously chronicles, his management team often felt the heat of his tension-driven style.
There is no challenging the results of Grove's approach as Intel became the world's largest semiconductor company during his tenure. However, what I like most is how Tedlow dissects Grove's public failures as an essential part of his profile. The most egregious moment came in 1994 when Grove publicly denounced critics who found flaws in Intel's new Pentium processor. His stubbornness to acknowledge the problem showed him to be nakedly unaware of the evolution of Intel into a branded consumer product company, how quickly the Internet was disseminating information, and how customers were elevating their expectations in getting that information without fail. Nonetheless, strategic mistakes are all part of Grove's makeup as he rolls the dice with the high-stakes entrepreneurial fervor necessary to thrive in a global economy now being gobbled up by China and others. Tedlow makes Grove's unbendable spirit palpable in these pages.
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?
I agree with others that Tedlow is an excellent biographer and that he delivers a very readable text, though with occasional sidetracks into quoting poetry and classical stories to illustrate a point. It became clear that Tedlow very much admires Andy Grove with good reason, so I didn't let the occasional worshipful tone bother me.
If you are looking for a book that goes into great detail about Andy Grove's personal life, this isn't it, though the book is the first place it was disclosed that Grove had developed Parkinson's. But if you want the story of how life shaped Grove and how he shaped his own life, if you want to see how Grove interacted with other leading figures of Silicon Valley and learn about the tough decisions he made during his tenure at Intel, you've come to the right place.
As a story therefore it is certainly hugely inspiring. However where this book falls short, in my opinion, is the manner in which this story has been narrated. First of all, it stands at 461 pages long! While I understand that a book describing the life and times of Andy Grove cannot be a quick read of 100 odd pages, it is inexcusable that the author takes as many pages as he does in narrating the Andy Grove story. What makes the lack of brevity frustrating is that it stems in part from his frequent digressions. It almost seems as though the author, Richard Tedlow wants to impress us with his erudition. Finally, the author's tone switches between the subjective and passionate to objective and dispassionate at a moment's notice and I find some of those transitions less than graceful. Thus at the end of it, when I ask myself the question I always do after watching a movie, "Did the director of the movie (or author in this case) help me empathize with the main character?", I find answering myself in the negative.
To sum up, Andy Grove's story is an intriguing and inspiring story. But I would rather have it told by someone other than Dr. Tedlow who inspite of taking us through 461 pages, fails in my opinion to help us understand how Andy Grove thinks (a task he had outlined for himself on the very first page of the book) but most importantly, how he feels.
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