Intel executives referred to planning meetings with him as a “Hungarian inquisition”
Robert Noyce out the door to help found Intel. “I was scared to death,” Grove said in a speech on the company’s 25th anniversary. “I left a very secure job where I knew what I was doing and started running R&D for a brand-new venture in untried territory. It was terrifying. I literally had nightmares.”
Grove became CEO in 1987. Whatever fear he felt when he arrived at Intel, he’d long since mastered and learned to use as a management tool. His planning meetings were known among executives as a “Hungarian inquisition.” “Mentoring with Andy Grove was like going to the dentist and not getting Novocain,” says Pat Gelsinger, a former Intel executive who went on to become CEO of Vmware. “If you went into a meeting, you’d better have your data; you’d better have your opinion; and if you can’t defend your opinion, you have no right to be there.”
It wasn’t unusual for presenters to fail to make it beyond the first slide before having their carefully prepared presentation ripped to shreds. The process was constructive savagery: It helped make Intel the world’s largest chipmaker, a distinction it still holds, a decade after Grove retired. “If you were to pick one person who built Silicon Valley, it was Andy,” said Marc Andreessen, the entrepreneur and venture capitalist, during a 2015 Churchill Club award presentation. “Andy kind of set the model for what a high-quality Silicon Valley company should be.”
That was the man I was editing back in 2010. Eventually, after much backand-forth, we had a mostly coherent essay—and had established a working relationship. Our e-mail and phone exchanges proceeded in accordance with his management maxims: engage in free and open debate where participants would argue vigorously regardless of rank, and, when the fights were done, “disagree and commit” to a course of action.
I still had one big problem with his essay, a rhetorical gap that needed filling. Grove was suggesting, without quite saying it, that what the U. S. needed was some flat- out government intervention to allow companies to create jobs. In the boardrooms of Silicon Valley and beyond, that’s heresy.
“Andy, people who read this are going to attack you for being some kind of communist,” I told him on the phone.
“I know what communism is,” said the man who escaped life in Stalinist Hungary. “And I am not a communist.”
“They’ll dismiss all this because you’re a protectionist,” I said.
“I don’t f---ing care,” he said, pausing after each word for emphasis. “If people think I’m a protectionist, fine.”
We disagreed and committed, and an edited, f-bomb-free version of that conversation became the culmination of his essay: “I fled Hungary as a young man in 1956 to come to the U.S. Growing up in the Soviet bloc, I witnessed firsthand the perils of both government overreach and a stratified population. Most Americans probably aren’t aware that there was a time in this country when tanks and cavalry were massed on Pennsylvania Avenue to chase away the unemployed. It was 1932; thousands of jobless veterans were demonstrating outside the White House. Soldiers with fixed bayonets and live ammunition moved in on them, and herded them away from the White House. In America! Unemployment was corrosive. If what I’m suggesting sounds protectionist, so be it.”
His break with ruling- class orthodoxy was striking, but it wasn’t rooted in ideology. He was applying his usual intellectual honesty. In his mind, he was addressing a systemic failure— in this case, chronic unemployment— that threatened dire consequences. Therefore, what was needed was logic to understand the causes of that failure and devise a plan to eliminate them. The article generated a lot of response, and Grove gleefully forwarded every message or news clip, with subject lines like, “still reverberating … .”
About four months after the piece was published, we had dinner at a sushi restaurant in the Valley. His Parkinson’s had progressed, and his voice quavered as we talked about the story and some ideas for a follow- up. As we left, he offered me a lift back to my hotel and gave me an impromptu tour of Silicon Valley. We drove through Los Altos, not far from where Jobs grew up, and into Palo Alto, and on to the Stanford campus. Grove pointed out the site of an old Fairchild Semi facility and talked about his days with Noyce and Moore. It was a surreal, personal travelogue through history.
Outside the hotel, I thanked him for dinner, and we shook hands.
“Good night, Mr. Editor,” he called through his car window. He laughed and drove off. <BW>
only a small and unrepresentative sample of research ever sees the light of day.
Why aren’t bad studies rooted out? Sometimes they are, but academic success depends on publishing novel results, so researchers have little incentive to check the work of others. Journals that publish research, and institutions that fund it, should demand more transparency. Require researchers to document their work, including any negative or “insignificant” results. Insist on replication. Supplement p-values with other measures, such as confidence intervals that indicate the size of the estimated effect. Look at the evidence as a whole, and beware of results that haven’t been repeated or that depend on a single method of measurement. And hold findings to a higher standard if they conflict with common sense.
To read Mohamed El-erian on market reactions to Brussels and Mark Gilbert on the currency war cease-fire, go to