Looking at the histories of big companies, we often contribute their successes to the competent leaders and the loyal employees who follow their direction. But what if defiance could be even more of a breakthrough for a company’s success? In their book, The HP Phenomenon: Innovation and Business Transformation, Charles H. House and Raymond L. Price explain how not following the leader can yield great results for the individual, the leader, and the company. In a recent review in Forbes, George Anders commends House and Price for pointing out many of these sorts of bottom-up instances of success that were possible at HP.
It would seem like bad leadership to allow dissention to continue in your company, and even worse if these ideas that the leader rejects are good ones! As House and Price reveal, it is not bad leadership to create a company that is smart enough to run itself. One of the most intriguing anecdotes in the book is that of Charles House himself. As an HP engineer in the ‘60s, House was set on pursuing a large-screen electrostatic monitor. When he was told, “When I come back in a year, I don’t want to see that product in the lab!” by a superior, he took it as incentive to get the monitor out of the lab – and into production as soon as possible. When the monitor turned out to be a great success, House was awarded the “HP Award for Meritorious Defiance”.
Who knew that ignoring a direct order from a superior could lead to success for all –profits for the company, awards for the defiant, and a successful product, which always reflects well on the leader. While House and Price’s account is certainly not advocating for complete defiance in business relations, it points out how success can come from the most surprising innovations. For HP, seeking new methods of business management and surprising the world with new techniques is what helped to create the HP Way. Despite some flaws along the way, the stories of unexpected as well as the intricately planned successes leave House and Price very optimistic about the future of this ground-breaking company.