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What Me Worry?

How smart entrepreneurs harness the power of paranoia

Depending on whom you're talking to, paranoia is: 1) a psychotic disorder characterized by delusions of persecution, 2) an irrational distrust of others, or 3) a key trait in entrepreneurial success.

Sound crazy? Not according to Andrew S. Grove, president and CEO of Intel Corp. in Santa Clara, California, and author of Only the Paranoid Survive (Doubleday/Currency). The title of Grove's book comes from an oft-repeated quote that has become the mantra of the chip king's rise to the top of the technology business.

"I have no idea when I first said this," Grove writes, "but the fact remains that, when it comes to business, I believe in the value of paranoia." To those who suffer from clinical delusions of persecution, of course, paranoia is neither a joke nor a help. However, in a business context, the practice of voluntarily being highly concerned about potential threats to your company has something of a following.

"If you're not a little bit paranoid, you're complacent," says Dave Lakhani, an entrepreneur in Boise, Idaho, who offers marketing consulting to small businesses. "And complacency is what leads people into missed opportunities and business failure."

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This article was originally published in the March 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What Me Worry?.

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