Nvidia: 10 Minutes That Mattered

Sometimes technology matters less than you think.
Business is often built or destroyed on disruption--some sudden innovation, insight or strategic move that changes the game for everyone. The same is often true in our lives, when an important conversation, a made or missed connection, even an intrusion of pure fate, redirects our thinking and actions for years afterward. While brief, these moments are critically important for who we are. Forbes is asking leaders in business and other fields about the disruptive "Ten Minutes That Mattered" in their lives and will share those stories here. Share your thoughts and own stories in the Reader Comments section below.

Jen-Hsun Huang
Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Nvidia

"I'm introverted. I don't really like being with people. You can tell an introvert versus an extrovert depending on how they relate to people: If go to a party, I'm not energized, I'm exhausted. I can't wait to leave. I shouldn't be leading a business--I even hate traveling.

"Probably in 1986, I read this paper in the Harvard Business Review. I was an engineer at LSI Logic, and I might have stayed an engineer there the rest of my life. Brian Halla (the CEO at National Semiconductor told me to read this paper though.

"It was about semiconductor architecture wars and why Intel's x86 chip was doomed. It was a revelation to me, because I'd only read technical papers before that. This was about strategy. That was strange for an engineer to read--that the fundamental engineering advantages of Sun's Sparc chip and the x86 weren't fundamental at all. They were nuances.

"The paper was wrong. It said Intel's technology was obsolete. I thought that missed the point, and their problems were something that the engineers could fix. That was really exciting too--what was fundamental for Intel was a trust in Moore's Law.

"I started reading more and more about the interaction of engineering and strategy. It became fundamental to my interest. As I read those papers, I realized how important it is that a company sees itself the right way. Technology hardly ever matters. It's necessary, but it's not sufficient. Tech makes small differences. But it is how companies see the world that makes the big difference.

"When I started Nvidia, there were a lot of graphics chip companies. The competition thought the game platform was stable. I thought we'd have to build a new product every six months and make the demand for graphics insatiable. The idea was to give designers a way to create an artistic level, make the games delightful, with their own personal stamp on it. That was a massive difference versus the competition.

"Passion matters more than anything. Reading that article triggered a passion I didn't even know I had about business and strategy. Real passion can overcome a lot of dislikes."

BY Jen-Hsun Huang

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