I recently heard from Chuck House, co-author with Ray Price of The HP Phenomenon (THPP) about my post The dy Logo. I had used Chuck’s book as a jumping-off point for a discussion of how difficult it can be to integrate “outsider” cultures, even when the outside ideas have obvious value — like correctly orienting the logo on a consumer product. It was a riff on WWC that I enjoyed writing.
Chuck’s note was a wonderful read in itself. He took good-natured issue with some of my characterizations, reinforced other points that we agreed on, and reminded me of a few things that I should have remembered (and were in his book). I don’t have Chuck’s permission to publish his email in its entirety, so I won’t. Nevertheless I wanted to share with you a couple of his observations.
First of all, Chuck pointed out that the “dy” logo was actually used at HP in the 1950’s. From page 64 of THPP:
A spin-out corporation…Dynac allowed a number of HP employees a higher equity stake in their success while giving HP a chance to invest in areas adjacent to its main activities. Dynac’s logo was the HP logo inverted. Later, when it was found that the Dynac name was trademarked, it was renamed Dymec, keeping the same logo.
There are many wonderful things about this story, but I was most fascinated that — even in the 1950’s — corporate leadership would have invented such a thoroughly modern approach to identifying and seeding market adjacencies. Some things were lost over the next couple of decades. At least, there is no indication that Steve Wozniak’s management was inclined to create a spin-out to give “HP a chance to invest in areas adjacent to its main activities.” In any event, most of the HP engineers who argued for keeping the “dy” logo were not even born when Dynac used it, so it is unlikely that their resistance to flipping the shield was a nostalgic bow to a prior golden age.
Chuck went out of his way to reaffirm the comments in his book about Carly Fiorina’s positive impact on HP. Despite the obvious oustider-insider clashes, he says that, ” I don’t buy that Carly introduced WWC to HP, or even that she was all that good at it herself…,” but he does think that “…she was the best CEO we’d ever had in a WWC regard by quite a long ways (except Hewlett when he would actually do it…).”
To temper my comments about the narrowness of THPP’s sources, House described for me the considerable pain and expense that he and Price endured in preparing the research. Ninety percent of the people interviewed about events in the last fifteen years were what Chuck calls “current participants.” It’s hard to characterize that as the reminiscences of old colleagues. Point taken.
It was interesting to me that Carly opened the HP archives to House and Price. That access was eventually revoked. In fact, by 2001, access to the archives had become a sensitive issue with Carly, and she asked me to undertake a review of both the libraries and the archive. I was not very excited about doing it, and other events quickly had a higher priority.
For Chuck’s unvarnished “side-by-side” view of recent HP CEOs — along with a pretty striking analysis of value given versus value received — I will simply point you to his recent blog on the topic.