While Andy Grove will always be known primarily as the man who built Intel, it's his five classic business books that may represent his true legacy:

Physics and Technology of Semiconductor Devices (1967)

Many people tend to think of Andy Grove as a peer of the Baby Boomer high tech pioneers like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  In fact, Grove was born a generation earlier and, as a director of development at Fairchild Semiconductor, he pioneered in the basic technology the Gates and Jobs later took for granted. 

When Grove wrote this classic textbook, the integrated circuit was less than a decade old and the IBM 360 mainframe had been in general release for only two years. This book was crucial in explaining the chemistry of semiconductors to an entire generation of innovators.

This book remains in print (though pricey) and still used in college courses.  When you consider how much high tech has changed in 50 years, this book represents an amazing and probably unprecedented legacy for an innovator.

High Output Management (1983)

This was Grove's first attempt to systematize his philosophy of management. In a nutshell, he believed that the traditional split between "professional managers" and "professional engineers" was artificial and that the two roles should be combined into a single function.

Today, we're accustomed to CEOs who play both roles.  While we may celebrate Elon Musk, the fact that he's both engineer and manager raises nary an eyebrow.  Back in 1983, though, conventional wisdom was that managers were the decision-makers and engineers were technical folk who implemented those decisions.

As innovation in high tech accelerated geometrically (Moore's law) the assumed dichotomy between managers and engineers created brittle computer firms (DEC, Wang, Data General, Sperry, etc.) that crumbled in the face of the PC onslaught. Only IBM survived, and then only co-opting Grove's management philosophy. 

One on One With Andy Grove (1988)

Subtitled "How to Manage Your Boss, Yourself, and your Coworkers," this book was an attempt to extend and expand Grove's management philosophy into a set of principles that any worker could follow.  As such, it was not just revolutionary, it was out-and-out subversive.

For most readers at the time, the idea of managing your boss and your coworkers seemed like crazy talk. Even the idealized engineer/managers who'd "got" the message in Grove's previous book didn't want their employees to "manage" them, much less their employees.

Today, most people realize that even if they're in a salaried job, they're essentially freelancers who must manage their managers as if the manager were a customer. Because he understood the implications of the technology revolution he was helping to create, Grove saw the future of work relationships, decades before anybody else.  

Only the Paranoid Survive (1996)
While Grove's first three books were enthusiastic, upbeat and positive (his first in a "isn't this cool technology" way), his fourth and most famous book, subtitled "How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company" is more reflective and feels even a bit jaded.

By 1996 it was clear that neither the PC, nor the high management philosophies that accompanied its rise, would result in a workplace utopia.  Many of the firms that had created the PC revolution were stumbling, and Intel had just experienced a huge disaster--the Pentium chip flaw that almost destroyed the company.

In this book, Grove didn't just predict the increasingly cutthroat business world that the Internet would create, he systematized a way for companies, large and small, to remain nimble through the tectonic shifts that would shake, and continue to shake, the foundations of the business world. 

Swimming Across: A Memoir (2001)

While Grove's previous books were about technology and the intersection of work and technology, Grove's final book is about meaning, about the "why" behind the what and the how that he'd been so instrumental in creating for the world.

When he wrote this, Grove had been diagnosed with both prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease.  While he would remain as Chairman of Intel for another three years and would continue as a senior advisor at Intel for the rest of his life, he understood that his work was done.

Because of this, Grove's memoir transcends the genre.  It provides a perspective not just on the ways that the technology he pioneered had changed the world, but also upon his personal transformation and growth as he led the way, as a technologist, an executive and, yes, as an author.

Published on: Mar 22, 2016
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