50 Years In Tech Why HP Fell
"Despite these differences, everyone lived by HP’s unwritten credo: We design products for the engineer at the next bench".
HP grew up around a strong culture which was established by its founders. What also grabbed me in this read was:
"I inhaled everything about the 9100A, its technology (which was quite strange in retrospect, especially its two ROMs), the programming techniques, the applications. I started reading manuals in bed on Saturday mornings, a habit that served me well with colleagues and customers."
"I quickly put together a sales team of like-minded techies who pitched the 9100A to engineers, mathematicians, and physicists across France. As part of my standard sales pitch, I completely disassembled the product and then put it back together as I lovingly described each component."
There was that self-driven interest to really understand how the product works. No 5-day course with a certificate. It is easy to see where HP's focus got lost, and the culture diluted by outsiders taking over management and where it just became yet another business.
Today I see new entrants into organisations just getting an induction course and then put to work where they also see their job as just a job. When I started out working there were no courses to attend on repairing PC's. I bought books (with no expectation of being refunded by my company) and studied them, I got parts and took computers apart, I learnt to program, I learnt to do network support, and it was only years later in my career that courses started to become mainstream. The pity is that without learning all the fundamental basics down to the nuts and bolts, you don't have a fully contextual view and an ability to diagnose properly. It's easy for a tech-savvy client to poke a hole in a "thin covering" or where we have become reliant on a 3rd party support company to come and diagnose a fault and convince you a device is "uneconomical to repair".
So this was an interesting read for me for a technology sales environment. If we talk about excelling and succeeding in differentiating, it does (for me anyway) boil down to the essence of the company culture and the self-drive of its employees to seek to learn and understand its products and services. A lot of that also does depend on hiring the right people that fit well with that ethos. But today maybe too much emphasis is placed on "an applicable degree or diploma and 5 years experience"... No longer do we ask "what have you built". It's not necessarily the fault of employees (people are no less driven or intelligent than previous decades) but company cultures no longer seem to value or seek that behaviour, especially after their founding visionary has moved on.
|50 Years In Tech. Part 1: When HP Led Desktop and Mobile Computing
by Jean-Louis Gassée