One of the most famous quotes in the history of the technology industry was from Ken Olsen, the founder and CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation, who said “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Ken’s company invented the minicomputer, a mid-sized machine you could have multiple people access via wired terminal to their desks. It was the rage in the 1980’s. It enabled individual departments in a company to, at last, be free of the mainframe computer constraints.
The minicomputer was a huge success and Olsen won many awards for his incredible breakthrough. Unfortunately, he also developed incredible pride in his accomplishment and that pride was the source of his total rejection of the emergence of the personal computer during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. That rejection led to the quick demise of Olsen and DEC.
What can we learn from this? Here are three points:
1) Be proud of your skills to tackle new things; not in the specific ideas or results those skills generate at any given time.
2) Don’t leave people in the same job too long. When people accomplish things, the tendency is just too great that they will be excessively proud and protective.
3) Remember what Andy Grove, the longtime CEO of Intel, said: “Only the Paranoid Survive.”
What is your experience with runaway pride?