No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe soldiers, nothing is safe.
--Lord Salisbury, 19th century British prime minister
How has Autodesk come to such a sad state? Surely our management is not incompetent, nor bent on the destruction of our company. After all, they are for the most part the same people who led the company through the times of its greatest triumph, when Autodesk built the initial success of AutoCAD into one of the premier entrepreneurial success stories of the 1980s.
No, I think the problem that afflicts Autodesk, its seeming inability to act in any way whatsoever, stems from a failure of confidence, the self-assurance in the face of uncertainty that what we are doing is right, which is essential to any entrepreneur. When confidence ebbs, the courage to act dies with it. Successful businesses are rarely if ever built by following an obvious path, and the actions that created great industries often seem clear only in retrospect. The entrepreneur needs the right mix of brash disregard for the general consensus which usually tells him he is a fool or worse, tempered by firm grounding in the realities and potentialities of the arena he is operating in and the dynamics of the marketplace. These allow him to weigh his chances of success against what is at risk in the venture. An entrepreneurial company needs this balance as much as the founder of a start-up, and it must not only seek individuals who embody these properties, it must structure its organisation to achieve the right balance between imagination and caution.
It is an imbalance, or more accurately a disconnection, between these qualities which I believe lies at the heart of Autodesk's problems.
Editor: John Walker