remarks at the State of the
HP chairman, president and
chief executive officer
November 4, 1997
The third State of the World Forum convened in San Francisco to discuss
contemporary issues ranging from arms controls to business practices.
Forum participants include Walter Cronkite, Marian Wright Edelman, Jane
Goodall and George Shultz. Lew Platt opened the forum.
Good evening. Thank you, David (poet David Whyte), for the kind
words. I'm pleased to be here this evening.
This is a different
type of forum for me. It's not often that I address an audience of
visionaries, poets, writers, commentators, world leaders and Nobel
laureates. So I have to ask myself, "What in the world am I doing here?
What does a businessperson have to offer a group brought together by
concern for the world's future?"
Well, I can offer three things:
the perspective of a company that looks to the future every day; a desire
to listen and learn; and the introduction of a thought-provoking project.
First, my perspective from a businessperson's point of view. It's
a perspective developed from a 60-year-old high-tech business -- the
Hewlett-Packard Company, a worldwide company employing more than 120,000
people in 120 countries.
At HP, we are helping create the future through scientific
and technical innovation. So, in that sense, I hope you'll agree it's
entirely fitting to include a high-tech business perspective in your
deliberations. We see technology as a positive force -- constantly
bringing people together in ways not even imagined just a few short years
We want to connect people and make their lives easier. In
fact, our basic business purpose is to create information products that
advance learning and improve the effectiveness of people.
Doing right and doing well
the media, there have been numerous articles quoting forward-looking
businesses on their views of world development. And many companies have
come to realize what Robert Shapiro of Monsanto sums up: "The world will
reward the companies that help solve the world's problems."
other words, doing right and doing well are not mutually exclusive. In
fact, an implication of Bob's thinking is that doing right may be the best
way to make money.
Our company founders believed that, and I'd
like to quote the late Dave Packard: "The Hewlett-Packard Company should
be managed first and foremost to make a contribution to society." HP's
founders believed that profit was the proof of contribution.
there's proof that doing right and doing well have worked together in the
past. In 1993, the Chicago Tribune reported on a five-year study of 1,000
large companies. The 200 that ranked highest on a corporate responsibility
index also outperformed the Standard & Poors Index.
Porras and Jim Collins offer further proof in their book Built to Last.
They found that companies that put contribution first made more money in
the long run than those who put profit first.
Now I ask myself,
why is this?
It's because companies consist of people. And people
consist of hopes and dreams. And hopes and dreams -- when allowed room to
grow -- lead to creativity and commitment.
This brings me to my
second purpose here tonight -- to listen. The State of the World Forum is
a perfect place to do this -- for the representation here is a true
microcosm of the world. I'll be listening for answers to such questions as
"What are the world's most pressing problems?" and "What should we be
doing about them?"
Several HP employees have been very involved in
the forum this year. One (Barbara Waugh of HP Labs) joined the board a
month ago, and several will be attending sessions throughout the week.
They'll be listening, offering perspectives from our company and getting
HP colleagues will listen to them because that's our
culture -- one of listening. I have no doubt that new insights will show
up all over HP. We tend to discuss topics while wandering about.
Management by wandering around -- MBWA -- is one of the ways we operate.
It's the way we create an environment in which visions can emerge from any
source -- from virtually anywhere in the company.
So, together we
dream, we share and we debate. Sometimes ideas are scrapped. Sometimes
not. Sometimes a dream becomes reality.
And this brings me to my
third purpose here tonight, to introduce a project created and brought to
life by HP employees -- one of those dreams that made it.
tell you how this came about. A few years back, HP Labs, our central basic
and applied research organization, began a renewal process. During their
discussions, a question rose to the surface, "If we wanted to become the
best industrial research facility in the world, what would that look
For the world
issues were discussed, infrastructures were discussed, information was
shared. The end result was a one-word change that made all the difference.
They decided they wanted to be the best research and development lab for
the world -- not just in the world.
A closer camaraderie
developed, and ideas and dreams began to be shared at an increasing pace.
One of the dreams that was shared belonged to one of our Labs'
scientists. He'd had the dream since the first Earth Day 27 years ago. And
he felt he'd have to retire from HP to finally fulfill it. But this
contagious climate of "for the world" encouraged him to share his vision
with his colleagues.
Sid Liebes' dream was to tell the story of
our planet's past in such a compelling and thoughtful way that people
everywhere would become better guardians of its future. He proposed to
create a one-mile-long illustrated walk through the evolution of life. He
called it "Walk Through Time."
Discussions and debates followed.
Then something unexpected happened. Those who'd listened began forming a
And so the dream began its roll to reality.
HP Labs employees volunteered hundreds of hours beyond their
regular jobs to create the Walk. They collaborated with external
professional partners. Distinguished scientists shared their expertise and
visuals. Artists offered permission to reproduce their paintings for
modest honoraria or nothing at all. One by one, pieces of the project
began to materialize.
Legacy of contribution
People began sharing more than just their work lives.
Bits of their souls emerged. The project began for some to become a
business imperative: HP Labs must ask the deeper questions about why we're
here and what our contributions mean for the future. How else can we carry
forward the legacy of the founders "to make a contribution"?
engineer, to the surprise of his colleagues, was the world Webmaster for
carnivorous plants. He created a companion exhibit and titled it "Plants
A scientist offered music he'd written and
performed for worldwide healing meditations, a side of him people who'd
known him for over a decade had never seen.
An engineer in Oregon, with family and friends, started
building easels for a local showing of the Walk, giving up room in his
home for the project.
This enthusiastic, open work culture is a
CEO's dream -- to have employees moving freely, involved, creating.
What emerged from that spontaneous, inspirational exercise is now
a creative context for this forum. In the morning, most of you will take
part in the Walk as you begin your week.
So, what exactly is it? It is a one-mile long illustrated
walk; a linear timeline where each foot equals one million years in the
history of the earth, where a human lifetime is represented by one
thousandth of an inch.
It reflects five billion years of evolution
from the origin of Earth to the present, converted into a viscerally
meaningful walkable distance.
Ninety transportable panels explain a scientific
understanding of the evolution of life on Earth. Each panel is three feet
high by five feet wide, with text and illustrations. The illustrations
consist of photographs, drawings and paintings. The text is poetic, funny
The walk begins here at the Fairmont Hotel and ends
at Grace Cathedral. It's a great walk. Not only is the content absorbing,
but it's a great San Francisco stroll ending at one of the City's most
The project is titled "Walk Through Time --
From Stardust to Us."
I think you'll truly appreciate the title
when you've finished the Walk. And I believe you'll find it an insightful
experience. The first time I saw it, I was shocked at how little I knew
about how this planet of ours came to be what it is today.
by scientists' understanding -- we came about.
How life on this
planet will be around for at least another billion years.
And how our future may look.
I think that you, too,
will see new dimensions and perhaps develop new perspectives.
mere five billion years
And remember, this is only one-third of
what the Walk could have been. It could have been three miles --
representing 15 billion years. I understand that initially that was Sid's
plan -- to start from the Big Bang.
Thank goodness during one of
those debates I mentioned, it was narrowed to a mere five billion years!
In addition to the one-mile walk, future versions of the Walk will
include a coffee-table book, a version for schools, and translations into
other languages. I share with the employees here the aspiration that the
Walk have global impact.
I understand that the Walk will be turned
over to the Foundation for Global Community, a non-profit agency, by the
end of the year -- and that there is a growing list of worldwide agencies
and companies wanting to use it.
The Walk is guaranteed to make
you think -- and wonder -- whatever your commitments to the future might
be. Here are a couple of comments from people who have already taken the
Walk: "It took me three days of thinking to conclude what the Walk meant
to me." "I find that it has left me with a feeling of peace, and
connectedness to the rest of the universe."
During the walk you'll
notice text references to a lot of weaving, wandering life forms.
I know you're thinking, did he say, "wandering life forms?" Well,
I did. And there are other phrases just as interesting -- like fast and
loose. I'll let you discover the context during the Walk.
personally impressed by how much we -- as human beings on this earth --
are learning, and I began to think of how the high-tech industry has
helped make many of these discoveries possible.
By using the modern tools of DNA sequencing, scientists have
found a tangled repository of ancient history. And as sequencing methods
continue to advance, we learn more and more of the story.
technical advances in biotechnology over the last decade have led to a
virtual explosion in the amount of DNA sequence data now available, not
only of the human species but also of simpler organisms.
new DNA sequence information has given us insights into the relationships
among all life forms. And scientists tell us these similarities can be
used to great advantage.
Vast amounts of this knowledge are
continually being deposited into databases, allowing motivated scientists
to search for patterns in the sequence information that will provide the
scientific basis for the diagnosis of -- and the therapy for -- many
One example, already here and in an area in which
HP is directly involved, is the use of DNA sequence information to produce
silicon dioxide "chips," chips which can be read to yield the DNA sequence
of important genes such as those relevant to cancer.
As CEO of a
global technology company, I realize not only how important this knowledge
is, but how important it is to use it wisely. Let's make sure our wisdom
keeps pace with our technological advances.
bubbling up of scientific understanding will also be a constant reminder
to the business world that we need to be aware of where we wish to go, and
work together to get there.
Seek the best choices
continue questioning, seeking the best choices possible. This Walk exhibit
sets the stage for just such discussions.
In fact, when I asked
that HP employee, Sid Liebes, what he hoped to accomplish with this
exhibit, his answer was simple. "I hope it will enrich our sense of awe
and wonder, and contribute to a long-term, future-oriented world view."
When I asked Barbara Waugh, the person most responsible for
creating such an employee responsive community in HP Labs, what she felt
we'd gained by this exercise, she said, "For our companies to solve the
world's problems, the world must show up at work. Encouraging the whole
person to show up at work, and encouraging the rich diversity of our
global population not to fit in and disappear, but to show up -- these are
the first steps."
So at this point I'd like to say thank you, Barb
and Sid, for your involvement in making Walk Through Time available to all
of us. Sid, Barb and another core member of their team, Laurie
Mittelstadt, will also be hosting a luncheon keynote tomorrow.
the morning, as you take the Walk, look at it in your own way -- by your
own light -- and draw your own conclusions. Notice that commonalties take
precedence over differences -- that cooperation has helped carry life
forward for the last five billion years.
And remember where this
exhibit came from. As I said earlier, this project resulted from engineers
wanting to make a contribution through their work, and a creative,
people-oriented culture that allows their ideas to flourish. Remember that
we in the business world are just people working together -- and that we
will enjoy some of those team contributions tomorrow.
shared with you my perspective, as a businessperson, that doing right and
doing well go together.
And I've talked about why so many of us
from HP are here: to listen to world views as they're represented here
I've introduced the Walk Through Time.
like to close with a short reminder.
Rise a little farther
In spite of all that technology adds, it did not create in us the
desire to understand our past or to reach beyond our planet. People did.
It is our nature to reach, to dream and to rise a little farther up each
We've recently seen spectacular images of the landscape on
Mars via Pathfinder. And now we're celebrating the completion of the Lunar
Prospector spacecraft -- a spacecraft that will be launched early next
year to spend a year in polar orbit mapping the moon. The next dozen
astronauts that take a walk on the moon may well have a detailed map to
guide their explorations.
I'm sure, as Walter takes the podium, he
will remind you of our wonder as the Apollo landings began -- and man took
his first steps on the moon.
And as Marian Wright Edelman -- the
founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund -- addresses you, I'm
sure you'll be just as amazed by her stories of accomplishment right here
on earth. For we need to enter the future hand-in-hand, and she is
determined that no child be left behind.
So, we're headed down a
multitude of paths. All are essential and need our collective effort --
for good teams inspire good results.
As we continue to reach up
and out, let's also work to try and anticipate the consequences of our
actions -- and make good choices!