The co-authors of the bestselling Competing on Internet Time: Lessons from Netscape and Its Battle with Microsoft (1999) attempt to extract timeless principles of strategic leadership from the unique business-building skills of tech titans Bill Gates of Microsoft, Andrew Grove of Intel and Steve Jobs of Apple.
Yoffie (International Business Administration/Harvard Business School) and Cusumano (Management and Engineering/MIT) revisit the careers of the three individuals perhaps most responsible for conceiving and producing the history-making shift to personal computers in the 1980s. “None of the three,” the authors write, “was the type of well-rounded general manager that top business schools…try to produce.” All mostly self-taught, they lacked formal business training and learned leadership and organizing skills on the job. They were strategic thinkers who put countless time and effort into the thought and research necessary to maintain their companies' rapid developments. Throughout their careers, they competed against each other—especially Gates and Jobs—as fiercely as they did their other business rivals. Yoffie and Cusumano distill from their combined histories five principles, and they address, and further differentiate, each in its own chapter. These include “Look Forward, Reason Back,” “Making Big Bets, Without Betting the Company,” “Building Platforms and Ecosystems—Not Just Products,” “Exploit Leverage and Power—Play Judo and Sumo,” and “Shape the Organization Around Your Personal Anchor.” While delineating these principles, the authors don’t overlook the sometimes-underhanded, borderline illegal processes of the respective companies. Microsoft's ruthless pursuit of monopoly power left a trail of vanquished competitors, and Intel achieved its monopoly through manufacturing prowess and extreme defensiveness. The circumstances each company addressed were specific enough, as was the learning process required for mastery, to perhaps undermine the authors' claims for the timelessness of their five principles, but the lessons should be useful for managers and entrepreneurs.
A provocative account of the outsized contributions of these modern-day robber barons.