Michael Dell's upcoming book, Direct from Dell: Strategies that Revolutionized an Industry, about the meteoric rise of Dell in the PC landscape, is a must-read for anyone in the high-tech industry.
Because inside its 231 pages--in between the boldface subheads that remind one to "Align Complementary Strengths for Success," the three-pronged bullet points, and the quaint anecdotes about the how the company upstaged its rivals--the reader will come across the answer to the question that sits first and foremost on the mind of everyone working in the computer field.
Yes, it is too late for you to become an industry titan. In fact, it was too late 30 years ago.
Although ostensibly a homey tome of business advice, Direct From Dell serves as an eye-opener to the ugly reality that a CEO of a major corporation comes from an entirely different species than you or I. This is not to say that members of this species can hold their breath for an hour underwater or catch fish with their mouths. (Who knows, but bigger issues exist.) But they are stronger, possess more foresight, and unfailingly skirt the common mistakes that are hallmarks of humanity.
And at a very early age. Key events in Dell's life, for instance, include the following:
His book (actually half book--he co-authored it with Catherine Fredman, the same woman who helped Andy Grove write Only the Paranoid Survive) reads like the humble triumph of common sense over the forces of chaos and disorder. By contrast, my own business self-help book/biography would include the following:
Where did I go wrong? Was I not "staying allergic to hierarchy" by chafing at my father's advice? Did I fail to "Be the Hunter, Not the Hunted" as the book implores? When did the clock of destiny start to run? Clearly, the curse came down a long time ago.
Interestingly enough, the book also foretells the demise of the high tech industry as well. Again, the foreshadowing emanates from the folksy tone of the book.
Prior to Dell, high tech leaders came in one of two bigger-than-life categories. On one hand, you had the Shakespearean figures, such as Grove or Larry Ellison, powerful geniuses afflicted with conflicting ambitions and emotions. On the other end of the spectrum, you had the visionaries: people like Steve Jobs and Lotus' Mitch Kapor, who tripped on organic images of the future while listening to the Tarkus album from Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
What has been Dell's blinding, animating dream? To cut out the middleman. Even a Junior Achievement counselor might have a tough time getting excited about that.
Michael Kanellos is a senior writer at CNET.