Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Retreat or Advance?

For some months I've really enjoyed Carly Fiorina's autobiography, Tough Choices. It's a fascinating personal account of a remarkable woman in a male-dominated culture who eventually became the Chairman & CEO of Hewlett-Packard. It was Carly who oversaw the daunting but ultimately successful merger between HP and Compaq in the face of massive criticism. I was inspired by these words from her most passionate speech in defence of the merger:

'To simply say no (to the merger) without offering an alternative plan is to ask the people of HP to give up their vision, to put their ambitions aside, and to settle for less than this company is capable of achieving. The people of HP don't want to rest on the legacy of this company. They are determined to build on it... This is a choice between taking the hill and charging ahead or retreating and starting over. This is a choice between embracing the revolution that is changing our industry or attempting in vain to preserve the status quo. This is a choice between leading and following.
During another time and place, at the dawn of another era in computing, a woman named Grace Murray Hopper offered a piece of wisdom that applies to us today. Grace Murray Hooper was not only one of the first women software engineers in America, she was also a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. One day she was asked why she liked to be in the middle of the action at sea rather than docked in safe waters at home. She replied, "A ship in port is safe. But that is not what ships are built for."
HP can sit idly in its port and watch the rest of the world go by. It can choose the still waters of inaction over the rough waves of competition. But that is not what Hewlett-Packard was built for.' [Carly Fiorina, Tough Choices, p.259]

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Just before Christmas I was flicking through books at W.H.Smith's in Milton Keynes when I cama across a book on drawing containing some fascinating quotes. The following quote, by the author Tchaikovsky, really challenged me. I had to write it down in my notebook whilst on the lookout for over-zealous shop assistants!

'We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.'