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David Packard
May | 2013


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Courageous Leadership

David Packard

David Packard - his name is probably right there on your printer; at least it is on mine. I find myself mentioning my new HP printer several times a week since this latest version does everything I need and more. And while today's HP is a far cry from David Packard's Hewlett-Packard Corporation, his story is an interesting tale of leadership and successful principles.

Most everyone knows that David Packard and Bill Hewlett founded their company in a garage in Palo Alto CA. Although they are considered the first great garage technology entrepreneurs, on the face of it, their story seems much less exciting than Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. Both Packard and Hewlett were gainfully employed electrical engineers who, instead of having a great idea, were searching for a great idea. Their first one was a foul line indicator for bowling alleys, their second a clock drive for the telescope at their local observatory. Their third idea, which finally hit some pay dirt was an audio oscillator they gave the name "200 A." They had avoided naming it the "100 A" because they were afraid it might be perceived as a new product from a new company. Their company got off the ground when the 200 A was used by Walt Disney Studios in the production of Fantasia.

More impactful than David Packard's success as the CEO of HP was how he and his partner imbued Silicon Valley with the DNA of innovation, egalitarianism, and partnership. Their "HP Way" modeled a culture that emphasized personal autonomy and responsibility for employees while encouraging a decentralized organizational structure that promoted innovation. The impact of this structure led to many great ideas and protégées who helped create the West Coast technology industry.

Packard and his partner didn't always recognize the next great idea however. In the 1970s a young Steve Wozniak had approached Bill Hewitt with his prototype for a new kind of personal computer built from spare HP parts. Hewitt rejected the idea and Wozniak went off to another garage where he and Steve Jobs designed the Apple I.

Packard believed strongly in the management philosophy that he and Hewett had evolved. At a CEO conference in 1942 the 29-year-old Packard discussed management styles with leaders of Standard Oil and Westinghouse. He told them that management's responsibility was not to the shareholders alone but to its workers, customers, and even the community at large. As a measure of how far Packard was ahead of his peers, he was almost laughed out of the room.

Hewlett-Packard ignored the ridicule and embraced support for employees. David Packard, who ran day-to-day operations used the "management by visiting" methodology and insisted on first name informality and the elimination of CEO hierarchy. He was accessible and so was everyone else with their open door policies and wall-less offices. HP was one of the first companies to establish worker bonuses tied to productivity and profit sharing. They adopted flextime schedules in the 1960s and avoided layoffs during the recession of 1973-74 by an across the board pay cut of 10% and having all employees take off every other Friday.

At a management meeting in the 1960s, Packard told a group of employees, "people come together and exist in an institution we call a company...to do something worthwhile and to make a contribution to society. A true HP man, Packard believed in following the mission of the company.

People work for many reasons. For some they are focused on using their best skills. For others it's about earning a living to support their family and enjoy the fruits of their labor. And for many people, it's about the mission and purpose of the project and the opportunity to give back. David Packard probably started off his career wanting to be the best electrical engineer he could be but soon realized that his work was about creating a workplace where employees can use their best skills to create on behalf of themselves, their organization and their community. For me, it is always about mission and giving back to the greater good. What is the most powerful work motivator for you?

 

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TED Talks

Psychology has a long history, focusing on what is wrong with us and to use terms that contribute to many negative thoughts about ourselves — neurotic, repressed, helplessness, dysfunction.

Angela Lee Duckworth left a promising career in consulting to pursue teaching and psychology and studying why children succeed in school. She identified a concept that is more vital than intellectual or emotional intelligence — grit — the ability to be passionate and persevere through difficult challenges. Grit is an idea I use in my resilience work and you can use it too. Hear what Angela has to say.

 

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