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Strategy Lessons: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Andy Grove

y450-293It sounds like the old parlor game: If you could have dinner with three iconic business people in history, who would they be?

You wouldn’t be faulted if you chose Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Andy Grove. And just because such a dinner is, obviously, impossible, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn business strategy (almost) directly from them.

Harvard Business School Professor David B. Yoffie and MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Michael A. Cusumano offer the next best thing to a corner table with the three icons. They’ve released a new book “Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs.”

HBS Working Knowledge writes: “Yoffie has had access to all three men—having served on Intel’s board since 1989 and written numerous business cases on Apple and Microsoft. He first started talking about the idea for the book more than six years ago with Cusumano…. But, Yoffie says, they wanted to wait until all three had finished their tenures. ‘The idea was to wait until Steve’s departure, which unfortunately came with his death. Literally a week after Steve’s death, we had lunch and agreed we would do the book.'”

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 1.47.28 PMThe two authors immediately recognized one key attribute to all three leaders: Passion.

“Gates, Grove, and Jobs all displayed incredible passion for their companies and their industries. At times, yes, they displayed considerable anger. But this comes with passion, which was essential to their leadership style. They were also great teachers, in our view, showing others in their companies what mattered most to the customer and the business. Sometimes this meant they got upset when people didn’t get their vision or got something wrong. Each of them also made mistakes and were not too proud to admit when they were wrong,” Cusumano told the MIT Sloan Newsroom.

And yet each brought different approaches to challenges and opportunities. The Economist writes: “As Jobs’s idiosyncrasies show, the three men had different approaches. Each one excelled at particular things that were crucial in his field. Mr Gates’s strength was in software and strategy, both needed in abundance to establish an operating system. Mr Grove focused on discipline and execution, which explains Intel’s unmatched capacity to churn out chips. And Jobs was obsessed with detail and design. That turned out to be secondary in personal computers (PCs), but proved vital in smartphones.”

And while the authors focus on their subjects success, they also take hard looks at their failures. Despite that, as Yoffie told Working Knowledge: “Where many CEOs fail is they can espouse these great ideas about what the world is going to look like in five years, but they aren’t able to look at what they need to do today to achieve that result.”