As most successful companies evolve and expand they develop some nostalgic sense of romance around their freewheeling early days. An exchange here at D with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggests that Microsoft is atypical in this regard. Perhaps one root of Microsoft’s paranoid corporate DNA — its collective sense that no matter how successful it is, the roof could cave in any minute — lies in an inferiority complex that goes back to its formative years.
Here is what Ballmer said, responding to a question from Walt Mossberg about managing such a huge company today: “Don’t think the early days of Microsoft, when I joined, were so great. We didn’t have great agility.”
Mossberg: “What, it was small but ossified?”
Ballmer: “The people we had weren’t as good — they just weren’t pushing as much.”
Mossberg: “Like Paul Allen?”
Ballmer: “Paul was good. Bill was good. Four out of 30 were good — and believe me, the rest are gone.”
[tags]steve ballmer, microsoft, d5, d conference[/tags]