Daily Inspiration: Leadership & Innovation – “Disruptors value defiance over blind obedience!”


“Disruptors value defiance over blind obedience!” – Futurist Jim Carroll

Be like Chuck House.

In a world in which you are surrounded by yes-men, be the person who is willing to say no since sometimes following the lead is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Years ago, the book The Intrapreneurs, by Clifford Pinchoot III, defined The Intrapreneur’s Ten Commandments. Numbers 8, 9, and 10 are notable.

8. Come to work each day willing to be fired.
9. Be true to your goals, but be realistic about how to achieve them.
10. Honour and educate your sponsors.

What is an intrapreneur? A book review when the book was first released puts it in context:

It looks like a phonetic spelling by someone with bad diction, but an ‘‘intrapreneur” is an ”independent entrepreneur” or ‘‘intracorporate entrepreneur,” if you believe the text of the book, or an ”internal entrepreneur,” if you believe the dust jacket. Whatever the derivation of the word, however, an intrapreneur is an employee who manages to skirt the corporate bureaucracy to introduce new products and create new markets.

These courageous souls form underground teams and networks that routinely bootleg company resources or ‘steal’ company time to work on their missions,” Mr. Pinchot writes. ”They make new things happen while those trying to innovate by the official route are still waiting for permission to begin.’

What’s New On the Corporate Bookshelf: Entrepreneurs in a Corporate Setting
14 April 1985, The New York Times

In that context, Chuck House was true to those terms – and was featured in the book immediately after the Commandments.

He was a frustrated oscilloscope designer upset because people weren’t listening to his ideas. In a formal review by both Bilkl Hewlett and David Packard, Chuck House’s dream was shot down. David Packard’s verdict was blunt. “When I come back next year, I don’t want to see that project in the lab.

Instead of killing the project as ordered, House and his immediate boss decided to get it out of the lab – not by junking the prototype but by completing it within the year. When Packard returned, not a trace of it was in the lab, but it was pretty clear it wasn’t dead. “I thought we decided to kill the project,” Packard exclaimed, somewhere between amusement and impatience. By not getting mad, Packard took another step in creating the Hewlett-Packard culture, which values courage over obedience.

A Dangerous Guide to the Corridors of Power
Los Angeles Times, March 15, 1985

House went on to become a senior executive and engineer with the company, with quite the career:

Chuck House, who overcame numerous obstacles posed by Hewlett-Packard and involved himself with the beginnings of almost 20 percent of the company’s major product lines – including such ventures as the moon-lander monitor, which allowed NASA scientists to follow telemetry data readouts and watch relatively clear pictures of the first moonwalk.

What’s New On the Corporate Bookshelf: Entrepreneurs in a Corporate Setting
14 April 1985, The New York Times

Most importantly, his career was defined by bucking the system – so much so that HP ended up creating a “medal of defiance” in his honour.

Most managers, alas, are still yes-men. But if companies truly want to encourage fresh ideas, they must develop creative programs that will reward those who dare to stand up and say no.

Chuck House chose to misunderstand. He was developing a computer-graphics display system at a Hewlett-Packard lab back in the late 1960s and the big boss, David Packard, was on his annual inspection tour. After reading reports that the system had limited sales potential, Packard bluntly told House that he didn’t want to see any signs of the project on his next visit to the lab. Clearly, House was supposed to ditch his pet. “But,” he recalls, “I decided to interpret his comment to mean hurry up and produce it and get it out of the development stage.”

He did just that, and eventually his surreptitiously produced system became a key money-maker for H-P. When Packard heard about the engineer’s audacity, he was enraged. But when House was transferred a few years later, his bosses handed him an award for bucking top management. It became known around H-P as the “medal of defiance,” and company flacks made sure the press found out about it. House is now general manager of H-P’s software-engineering-systems divisions. He says the Hewlett-Packard of the 1990s can still be muddled by bureaucracy and politics. But he gives the company credit for its continuing efforts to reward dissent–by recognizing go-against-the-grain types or work done “under the bench.”

In theory, every corporation encourages its managers to fight the system. In real life, some actually do.

Paying the Troops to Buck The System
1 May 1990, Business Month

The award is notable for its purpose.

One of his more delightful creations was an award for Chuck House, the engineer who brought HP’s highly profitable display monitor to market over Packard’s repeated objections. The award cited House’s “extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the call of ordinary engineering duty.” Packard took delight in pointing out that House later became director of a department “with his reputation as a maverick intact.

The Society BUILDERS.
1 September 1999, Management Review

You are surrounded by people who will only say no to your ideas.

Know when to defy them and forge ahead.

Know when you should show extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the call of ordinary engineering duty.

Be like Chuck House.



THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.