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Lesson #4: A Healthy Dose of Paranoia Will Put You Ahead of the Curve
Along the road to success, Moore and Noyce regretfully admit to not taking full advantage of many opportunities that came their way. “Some we missed by default,” says Moore, such as the creation of an engineering workstation. Intel was already selling something called a “development system”, which was a special-purpose computer for the engineer. After talking to venture capitalist Bill Davidow, Moore and Noyce began to imagine that the engineer of the future would have a single computer on his desk. “We talked about what it ought to be,” recalls Moore. “But even though we talked about it, we were too darned busy doing other things, and we never go around to moving in that direction. So we missed that chance completely.”
Another such missed opportunity came with the advent of the PC. “Long before Apple, one of our engineers came to me with the suggestion that Intel ought to build a computer for the home,” recalls Moore. “And I asked him, ‘What the heck would anyone want a computer for in his home?’” After the engineer could come up with nothing but the example of a housewife using the computer to put her recipes on, Moore passed on the idea. “It seemed ridiculous!” he says.
Moore claims that he doesn’t mind missing an opportunity because they tried but failed. “We took some fairly aggressive and not always successful steps toward producing computer products early in the company’s life,” he says. One such step was with the 432 – the first 32-bit microprocessor. Due to the technologically complex nature of the system, Moore and Noyce had to sacrifice performance in favour of functionality. “It ended up being so slow it could do hardly anything, and we had to abandon it,” says Moore. “But at least it was an aggressive shot – one that we just didn’t target correctly.”
However, it’s not those chances – the shots they took but missed – that Moore and Noyce regret. It’s the chances they didn’t take, the opportunities that passed them by without even realizing it. “In retrospect, there are a lot of things we could have done better along the way,” says Moore. “But, we did enough right to grow a fairly large company.” If they were to do it all again, what would they change? Their complacency, they say, in paying attention to not only their own products, but to their competitors’, and to the changing demands of their customers. From the every day internal details to the major competitive threats, a healthy dose of paranoia will go a long way in making your company a success.
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