Drawing on 50 years of experience, two gurus of change have defied the computer doldrums.
The computer industry is in crisis. Everywhere the news is of plunging profits, sagging sales, massive lay-offs and a headlong rush to form defensive alliances. The mighty pioneers, including IBM, and the thrusting newcomers, such as Compaq and Dell, are suffering from their failure to keep pace with accelerating change. A growing number of computer billionaires, including Apple's Steve Jobs and Digital's Kenneth Olsen, are being forced out by disenchanted colleagues in boardroom coups.
Yet there are outstanding, and in many ways surprising, exceptions to these chronicles of doom. The Hewlett-Packard company is one (Microsoft, see page 54, is another). HP was founded in 1938 when its home state of California was mainly associated with sun, fun and Hollywood, and the word "electronics" had barely entered the dictionary. The firm goes from strength to strength, with its two founding fathers still playing a significant role in its affairs. It more than holds its own in old markets and finds highly remunerative opportunities in niches that others have abandoned. Furthermore, with its inkjet printers, the company has found a mass-consumption product that has allowed it to establish and maintain a, so far, almost unchallenged global lead. In a recent American study of successful management, HP is admiringly described as an "adaptive paragon".