Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: Andy Grove, The Life and Times of an American, by Richard S. Tedlow, Professor , Harvard Business School, and Business Historian, 2006, 581 pages

You are always in danger. You are in danger of competitors, you are in danger of new ways of doing things, but more importantly, you have a danger that the way you have conducted your business is going to lose relevance.

Andrew S. Grove (1936 - ), Only the Paranoid Survive (1996)

February 22, 2012 - Why review a six year old book written by the former CEO of Intel, a Silicon Valley based microprocessor company? Why would physicians be interested in such a book?

For the simple reason that some physicians are paranoid. The fear losing their relevance in the age of personal computers where everybody seems connected to everybody else and everybody has access to medical information.

What is it about Silicon Valley that attracts entrepreneurs and investors that seek to make money and revolutionize society.

Here is how Tedlow explains it.

“What is Silicon Valley? It is a geographic location, but also a state of mind. It is a place where the intensity of the desire to make money can hardly be overstated. However, neither can one overstate the intensity of the desire to make ‘a dent in the world.’”

What is Grove’s company, Intel? It is an anchor tenant in Silicon Valley. It is a quintessential American Company that rose to greatness under the management of Andy Grove, a Hungarian who left his native land at age 20 and became an American and an information revolutionary in a world transformed by the internet and social technologies. Andy Grove’s story is a story of the success of American entrepreneurialism, freedoms, opportunities, and why one’s state of mind can trump all obstacles thrown into one’s path.

As I read Grove’s biography , I thought of Rudyard Kipling’s famous verse: “I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I know); There Names are What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who.”

To read this book is to understand.

· What historical events occurred from the invention of the transistor, to integrated circuits , to the dawn of the semiconductor industry, to the impact of the silicon chip, to the introduction of the Internet, to Intel providing microprocessors to IBM and Microsoft.

· Why pioneers like Andy Grove, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs turned the world upside own by making access to information ubiquitous and practical.

· When these events occurred from 1958 to the present, the founding of Intel in 1968, the establishment on Microsoft in 1975. IBM’s introduction of the PC in 1980 . the rise and fall and resurrection of Apple from 1983 to 1997.

· How Moore’s Law, that the number of transistors in a chip, would double every 2 years, accurately predicted the phenomenal growth of the consumer electronic industry with personal computer in 70% of American households. Gordon Moore was a co-founder of Intel, and Gorve was Intel’s third employee.,

· Where has become everywhere. The Internet is an international groundswell in an interconnected world where distance has become irrelevant in many business and most transactions.

· Who has become almost everyone. One paragraph in a chapter “The PC Is It,” reads: “Business in the late twentieth century turns out to be about information. Information processing became the essential infrastructure of the era. The computer was to the United States what the railroad was to the United States in 1990. It was the backbone of business.”

The computer is fast becoming the backbone of medicine. Practices are installing websites. Websites, like Health Grades, are grading doctors. Eighty percent of individual visit search engines are looking for medical information. Young doctors are weaned on the computer. Government is paying, even demanding, doctors install electronic records, and it is establishing a computerized data-based Outcome Institute to judge doctor performance. Doctors are marketing their services via the social media.

Andy Grove, now 76, is busy trying to translate chip-technologies into cost-effective health care. In a 2009 NYT interview, he asks, “Why doesn’t technology give us medical treatments that are better, faster, and cheaper? A system that works, heaven forbid, like the chip world.” He may be right - Moore’s Law is at work.

Tweet: The biography of Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, is a good read on the impact of information technologies on medicine.

1 comment:

Richard L. Reece, MD said...

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