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Paul Allen: The run-up to innovation

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Before he co-founded Microsoft, while he was still hanging out with Bill Gates at college, Paul Allen was restless, at loose ends.

Allen would read every magazine and journal he could get his hands on, waiting for a microprocessor powerful enough to run operating software—software he and Gates could write.

Finally, that moment came with the Altair 8800, the first commercial personal computer. He literally ran to tell Gates.

If they had been older or known better, Allen says, they might have been overwhelmed. But they were young and naive enough to give it a shot.

Today, Allen says that each of his big ideas—which now include aspects of brain science and aerospace—has begun with a development that sets the stage. In founding Microsoft, that development was the evolution of Intel’s early chips.

Next, he asks these basic questions:

  • Where is the leading edge of discovery headed?
  • What product or service should exist but doesn’t yet?
  • How can I create something to help meet that need?
  • Who might work with me?

—Adapted from Idea Man, Paul Allen, Portfolio/Penguin

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