Motorola C.E.O. Addresses Chief Executives Club

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Motorola Chief Executive Officer Christopher B. Galvin told 200 business and community leaders at a luncheon meeting of Boston College's Chief Executives Club on Sept. 10 that success in the global marketplace requires a willingness to buck conventional wisdom, combined with an ability to roll with rapid and unforeseen changes in technology and geopolitics.

"Motorola likes surprises, [and] surprises are the most fun when you can create them," said Galvin, who said the giant electronics firm founded by his grandfather in 1928 to manufacture car radios has prospered by being prepared to capitalize on advances it could never have foreseen in communications technology, from personal computer modems to cellular telephones.

Motorola CEO Christopher B. Galvin said the company's "counter-intuitive" approach has worked.

Galvin said Motorola, the 24th largest corporation in the United States, has expanded its vast international operations by a "counter-intuitive" approach that has furthered company vision even when it has meant defying conventional business wisdom on dealings in Asia or Europe.

"We're willing to be bold, to take the risk," said Galvin, who cited negotiations with Chinese leaders that led Motorola to make massive investments in China at a time when the unsettled political climate might have warned against it, and the firm's forceful push to open Japanese markets to US-made semiconductors and cellular phones

Galvin said Motorola has succeeded by being flexible enough to capitalize on unforeseen surprises, such as the boom in consumer electronics, or the opening of markets in the wake of the Soviet collapse. He could not have predicted in 1991, he said, that his company would be heavily involved in the sale of computer modems today. "If I were giving this talk in 1993, not one of you in the room would ask about the Internet," he observed.

Asked whether long-term planning made sense in a world "driven by surprises," Galvin responded that he has no answer whenever he is asked what ventures his company will be involved in five years hence. "I don't know," he said. "I literally don't know."

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