Book Summary: Only The Paranoid Survive

Andrew Grove's Only the Paranoid Survive: Cover

Only the Paranoid Survive, by Andrew Grove

In short: Stay alert for paradigm shifts, and, if you determine something is changing do the scary thing and lean in with gusto.

  • Change will happen.
  • You need to be able to hear it. “Expose yourself to the winds of change.”

We need to expose ourselves to lower-level employees, who, when encouraged will tell us a lot that we need to know. We must invite comments even from people whose job it is to constantly evaluate and critique us, such as journalists and members of the financial community. Turn the tables and ask them some questions: about competitors, trends in the industry and what they thing we should be most concerned with.

  • “As we throw ourselves into raw action, our senses and instincts will rapidly be honed again.”
    • Andrew invokes Instinct often throughout the book.
  • “There’s a wind [of change] and there’s a typhoon”
  •  “10x” changes have different rules, when the forces acting on the business become wildly out of balance. Paradigm shift / “Inflection point”.
  • The business needs to be ready to evolve to a new form.
  • But once you know, it’s too late. “That means acting when all the data aren’t in yet. Even those who believe in a scientifi approach to management will have to rely on instinct and personal judgement.” When you’re there, “instinct and judgement are all you’ve got to guide you through.”


  • Computer industry shifting from vertically to horizontally aligned. IBM starts making OS/2 compatible with, and marketing it to, their “competitors”.
  • Oddest meeting ever: “These two people thought of themselves, first and foremost , as PC competitors. Even though his primary mission was to popularize OS/2, the IBM person was emotionally hamstrung in his attempt to market to his competitor… The deal never materialized.”
  • New Industry: New Rules. (Horizontal mechanics, in IBM’s case. What are they in Post-OER / Blended Learning EDU space?)

How to Identify an Inflection Point:

  • Ask yourself:
    • Is your key competitor about to change?
      • Not necessarily: Is that one company changing, but
      • Is who you and your colleagues ID as the “key” competitor no longer in agreement? Are they aiming at companies who previously didn’t merit that level of attention? Listen.
    • Same with key complementor? Is a long-standing partner about to be eclipsed?
    • Are previously-competent people losing touch with what matters?
      • Are YOU the one constantly shaking your head in confusion at what’s happening around you?
  •  Debate
    • Technical, marketing and strategic concerns.
    • Include different levels of management (including “know-how” managers, ie strong individual contributors), and include outside voices with different interests.
  • Data
    • Sometimes you have to ignore it / act without. “Data are about the past, and infelction points are about the future.”
  • Fear
    • “How do we cultivate fear of losing in our employees? … We feel it ourselves.”
  • Easy to describe, hard to create and maintain.
    • Live it
    • Promote interconnectivity between org power and knowledge power.
    • Praise risk.
    • Part ways with those who can’t adapt.

To get through it…

  • “Define what the company will be, … what the company will not be.”
  • Maintain bottom-up and top-down communication, between front liners who recognize change and those positioned to do something about it

Jordan is a freelance engineer with full-stack chops, and an eye for analytics and growth.