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Business the Bill Gates Way

Business the Bill Gates Way

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Published by Lê Văn Đàn

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Published by: Lê Văn Đàn on Nov 05, 2011
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01/24/2013

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For obvious reasons, Gates generates a certain amount of awe among those
who regard him as the predictor and architect of the digital age. To be fair,
some if not all of his reputation as a visionary is deserved. History may
judge him more kindly than his many detractors and rivals who say he is
simply exploiting his monopoly position. Without Gates and Microsoft, it is
unlikely whether the PC revolution would be as advanced as it is. Yet Gates
is much too smart to rest on his laurels. More than any other figure in his
industry he understands just what a treacherous road he’s driving. After all,
he’s seen the cars in front drive over the cliff more than once.

“The technology business has a lot of twists and turns,” he notes. “Probably
the reason it’s such a fun business is that no company gets to rest on

NEVER, EVER, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE BALL

159

its laurels. IBM was more dominant than any company will ever be in
technology, and yet they missed a few turns in the road. That makes you
wake up every day thinking, “Hmm, let’s try to make sure today’s not the
day we miss the turn in the road. Let’s find out what’s going on in speech
recognition, or in artificial intelligence. Let’s make sure we’re hiring the
kinds of people who can pull those things together, and let’s make sure we
don’t get surprised.”

“Sometimes we do get taken by surprise. For example, when the Internet
came along, we had it as a fifth or sixth priority. It wasn’t like somebody
told me about it and I said, ‘I don’t know how to spell that.’ I said, ‘Yeah,
I’ve got that on my list, so I’m okay.’ But there came a point when we
realized it was happening faster and was a much deeper phenomenon than
had been recognized in our strategy. So as an act of leadership I had to
create a sense of crisis, and we spent a couple of months throwing ideas
and e-mail around, and we went on some retreats. Eventually a new
strategy coalesced, and we said, ‘Okay, here’s what we’re going to do;
here’s how we’re going to measure ourselves internally; and here’s what the
world should think about what we’re going to do.’

“That kind of crisis is going to come up every three or four years. You have
to listen carefully to all the smart people in the company. That’s why a
company like ours has to attract a lot of people who think in different ways,
it has to allow a lot of dissent, and then it has to recognize the right ideas
and put some real energy behind them.”

NEVER, EVER, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE BALL

160

Gate’s purchase of an
illustrated manuscript by
Leonardo Da Vinci for
$30.8 million has
prompted some to suggest
that perhaps he sees
himself as a latter-day Da
Vinci—someone whose
visions of the future are
proved accurate in
following centuries.

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