That’s what the late, former Intel CEO Andy Grove contended – six years ago. Bloomberg BusinessWeek editor Jim Aley interviewed Grove in 2010 when Grove discussed ways of reviving the U.S. job market. Grove argued that the U.S. had frittered away its workforce and along with it much of its manufacturing expertise.
Grove further espoused the notion that the country had a misguided belief in the power of startups, and that the only answer to persistent unemployment was ‘scale-ups, not start-ups,” that is, big, sustainable companies that hired people by the thousands.
Grove thought, according to a more recent BusinessWeek article by Aley, that “what the U.S. needed was some flat-out government intervention to allow companies to create jobs” [Aley’s paraphrasing of Grove’s thinking]. To many, Aley notes, including most Silicon Valley boardrooms, such broad interventionism, or protectionism even, is heresy.
Aley told Grove: “You’ll be attacked for being some kind of communist!” Ironic, of course, since Grove in his youth had escaped both Nazi occupation and later communist government in his homeland Hungary, before finally fleeing to America, with $20 in his pocket, in 1956.
Grove responded that he didn’t care. “If people think I’m a protectionist, fine,” he retorted. He went on to point out that prior to his arrival in the U.S. he “witnessed firsthand the perils of both government overreach and a stratified population.” He went on: “[In] 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.”
Grove was using his sharp intellect to address a systemic failure – in this case, chronic unemployment – that threatened dire consequences, writes Aley. Grove was arguing for applying logic to “understand the causes of that failure and devise a plan to eliminate them.”
In the end, his words and article generated a lot of controversy, to Grove’s glee.
Andy Grove died last month. The title of his epic book, “Only the Paranoid Survive” became this writer/business owner’s personal mantra through many of the years I built our firm. Grove was not afraid to confront inconvenient truths head-on, consequences be damned. Given the success of Intel, it’s hard to argue with his logic. Today, we are told to “look at the data” to make the business case. Grove was never afraid to do just that, wherever that would lead. Even when it was unpopular or beyond the conventional pale.
R.I.P. Andy Grove.