Blind Arrogance Developmental Disorder

Every now and then we witness as people in powerful positions are somehow affected by a virus which causes “Blind Arrogance Developmental Disorder" (BADD) -- (anyone have a better acronym?).

When a company, country, or team is led by someone affected with BADD they usually end up turning a corner they wish they never had. There are many examples of BADD in our industry and they almost always end up with unfavorable, sometimes devestating results.

Take for example Nvidia. Many years ago they thought they were unstoppable, their products were excellent, ATI was way behind, and they didn’t expect a change to come. BADD hit, and ATI just skated by (I’m talking way back when the Radeon was introduced). It most definitely wasn’t ATI’s ability to execute better than Nvidia that put them in the lead; it was Nvidia’s own BADD that caused it to happen. Since the failure of the 5800 (way back when) legend has it that Jen-Hsun Huang had a major internal meeting with his team where he openly recognized the company failures and humbly stated “never again…”

Remember when Intel was in a similar position? Intel thought AMD would never break the mainstream – in fact, Intel never even mentioned the “A” word ever, it was like they never existed. BADD set in and ultimately AMD beat Intel out of a few major contracts.

During the lengthy beating of Intel I can only assume that the engineers at AMD truly felt that they were well ahead of the game. Judging by current events one might assume that some sort of BADD set in somewhere at AMD because they entered this new war unprepared.

A few years ago a mild form of BADD hit Voodoo. We assumed only a few competitors in our space would remain. We were under the assumption that Voodoo would grow with few challenges. It seemed that out of nowhere new companies began coming out of the woodwork. Many were just little guys with big heart – although some of them did not possess gaming DNA. Then larger OEMs jumped in and validated the space. Thankfully we didn’t stay blind for too long, and now we’re in a fantastic position.

In February of 2005 Kevin Rollins was quoted as saying something to the effect of “The IPOD is little more than a fad”. Months later I had a conversation with Michael Dell, who happens to be incredibly intelligent; yet he commented that Apple was spending as much on R&D as Dell, therefore “Dell was more profitable”. I’m no numbers guy, but I certainly don’t need to tell you what Apple’s valuation is – and at the time I don’t believe they perceived Apple as a major threat. I guess even the smartest people in the world get caught up in their own arrogance.

The latest example of BADD – and man this is a good one – occurred on January 31st 2007. According to the New York Times, Dave Karraker, a Sony spokesperson, said the Wii did not belong in the same category as the more powerful PlayStation 3. “Wii could be considered an impulse buy more than anything else,” he declared.

Dave, here’s a clue from a 34 year old who has been playing games since I could lift a controller. I’ve gone through every one of those Mattel 9 volt battery LED sport games. I remember when I ran out of batteries I would rip the connector off the back and hook it up to our wall socket to make them extra bright. I grew up on Atari 2600, Intellivision, Colecovision, Sega(s), Apple //c , Amiga 500, Neo Geo (yeah a bloody Neo Geo, go try to find one of these), and an IBM compatible -- and then I started Voodoo.

I now own an Xbox, an Xbox 360, and I just purchased a WII. I love the Xbox 360 very much, but I must tell you – try Madden on the Xbox with the highest detail on your HDTV. Then go plug in your WII and run it at standard resolutions and see which system offers you a better experience. BTW – I did have a Sony PS3, because it’s my job. I could have kept it – but instead I returned it. It doesn’t offer a compelling upgrade to the Xbox 360, and it’s nowhere near as fun as the WII.

Dave’s quote is almost as bad as the “Ipod is a fad” quote. Ugh…

Some advice to Wall Street – here is a very unscientific method to understanding the future of a company without actually buying a crystal ball:

  • Find the event that you believe triggered a “blind arrogant” reaction.
  • Study the company, the product, the competition, the media, and the customer feedback.
  • Make a decision; usually the answer is blatently obvious.

Some companies may possess a level of “mild arrogance”. They make great partners, and they understand their strengths and they are proud of them. They are more critical of themselves than others, and if they’re lucky they are open and honest about their weaknesses. The cool thing about companies like this is they prepare themselves for war long before the battle begins.

Companies like this are far and few between. Sure, all companies go through tough times as leadership changes and industry moves too quickly but finding the CEO who understands how to overcome BADD before it sets in is like winning a lottery.

There are many current examples of BADD that I have been watching closely. Our industry is full of arrogant bastards. Some might even say this article is somewhat arrogant. Perhaps it is – mildly amusing – I am not blind to that fact however.

Check out the new methodology for calculating BADD


lionzub said...

The Wii is just a gimmick. It's fun now because it's something different. In a few months when everyone is sick of playing all the kiddy games and flicking their wrists until tendinitis sets in - they will go back to Xbox360 and PlayStation 3 on HDTVs and think about how stupid they were wasting money on a gimmick.

iPod is just a fad by the way, and a case study for how to market cheap electronics that play low quality audio successfully.

dino said...

The Wii is most certainly not a gimmick. It provides an extremely fun gameplay experience at a low price point making it the most accessible of all the major consoles. I expect the Wii to sell considerably more units then the Xbox 360 and the PS3 for the entirety of it's lifetime.

And the iPod? A gimmick? Are 5 year long gimmick's possible?

Rahul Sood said...

The Wii is just a gimmick. It's fun now because it's something different. In a few months when everyone is sick of playing all the kiddy games and flicking their wrists until tendinitis sets in - they will go back to Xbox360 and PlayStation 3 on HDTVs and think about how stupid they were wasting money on a gimmick.

I would suggest that you try one. Play any game besides the kiddie games - something like Madden (as described in the blog). WII has mass appeal - Sony doesn't. XBOX does as well, but as WII comes out with more games we'll see Nintendo continue to gain share.

iPod is just a fad by the way, and a case study for how to market cheap electronics that play low quality audio successfully.

Interesting perspective, however a 5 year+ fad that's still growing? I didn't know there was such a thing.

Malsum said...

An interesting thing about the iPod. I used to work at a big blue and yellow retailer, in the computer repair department, you know the one's with the cute little New Beatle's!

I could not believe how many iPods we were sending out for repair or replacement. If an iPod was defective, or had "issues" and was with in the return policy we would trade them out, with almost no questions asked. There was one point where I was sending 1-3 units out per shift!!! It also took 3 services inorder to attain a new unit, which was almost common place.

My example of BADD would be Apple relying on the iPod and "iPod tax" (the accessories, which are way overpriced) as a means of feasible product.

I now will not recommend and iPod to anyone. When my wife wanted one for Christmas, I bought her something else.

lionzub said...

Interesting perspective, however a 5 year+ fad that's still growing? I didn't know there was such a thing.

People still do line dancing, that doesn't mean it's not silly :) I just hope Apple has some sort of recycling plan for all those iPods that become useless after the battery dies and is non-replaceable.

Tell me some non-kiddie Wii games and I'll try them out, however I do not play EA games. I disprove of their business practice. The Wii games that I have played, Wii Tennis (in Wii Sports) and Disney's Cars, I found led to tiredness in the wrist.

I'll take a dual-analog controller any day of the week (or mouse + keyboard) cause at least I can put some good time and enjoy my games.

I know the Wii is innovating in gameplay, but I believe that no development in the graphics area will hurt the gaming industry as a whole.

This is why I claim that it's a gimmick, because over a period of time - games will utilize every possible movement of the controller, and eventually people will say "I've seen this done before" and they'll be sick of doing the same "movements".

I'm sure some people will enjoy it, but I know it will not topple Xbox360 or PS3 because in the end they will provide the games for true gamers.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that this is an argument that falls in favour of the 360 and the ps3. i am not saying this because i like them more but purely from reading blogs like this where the majority of wii users have commented on its being gimmicky. i also believe the sony quote you are speaking of was a lower key rebuttle to both nintendo and microsofts outright blatent blasting of the ps3. the same annoying garbage we see on tv with mac vs. pc ads. I am surprised you would take a fanboy approach to your writing when xbox 360 has had its ups and downs over the last year. my last comment is a quote from manufacturers of hdtv. the only true hdtv is 1080p hdmi.

Anonymous said...


I disagree with arrogance. Yes, it certainly exists to some extent, but IMO, to a greater extent the problem is mis direction. You pointed out a "satisfying" experiance. Why is it satisfying? In a word: fun. The techo gimickry of PS3 is nice, but PS3, Xbox or even Wii cannot stand on resolution alone. Longevity and sales depend on the games themselves. PS3 is poor because the title offerings arent really that fun. Wii on the other hand, is fun. High resolution and surround may enrich an experiance, but if the experience lacks depth, then eye candy can only go so far. If the fundemental experience is fun to begin with, then it doesnt need to be enriched.
What Sony and MS are losing sight of is...fun. In their quest to top each other technologically, and bring new products to market to follow some refresh cycle (read Kepp the cash rolling in) they forgot that people want to be distracted and to do things which bring them pleasure. The super graphics can distract for only so long. Once youve seen the fog, or flames, or water reflections, then youve seen them. If the title is poor, you wont bother looking again. Nintendo has been bringing fun to the Wii. Until Sony and MS can do the same for their products, consistantly, they will find themselves slowly losing ground to Wii

jorge said...

I don't think the Wii will hold like the iPod has. For one, there are already superior competing systems out there (Xbox360 PS3), whereas the iPod had NO competition when it first came out. It was technologically superior to such a degree that it gained widespread acceptace despite (and I emphasize the DESPITE) it being an Apple product.

More importantly, it all boils down to the Wii having Never-Neverland syndrome. It's a gaming system for kids. I've said this before - it just doesn't appeal to most young males I've talked to which are the main buyers. I've actually heard a few people call the Wii 'gay'.

How can you overcome stigma like that? It's not going to happen this time 'round. I agree with lionzub, it's a fad.

Dan said...

I think it is only a matter of time before both the XBox360 and PS3 come out with controller that will mimic what the Wii does. Even with patents pending etc. I think its evolution for the gaming consoles, and as nice as Wii does it now, once it arrives for PS3 and XBox360, the the Wii will definitely be nothing more then a gimmick whose lack of graphics capability will quickly get outplayed. Yes it is fun for now, but it won't last. The console doesn't offer the same level of HDTV content, and that is the direction things are going. And as I said, it will only be a matter of time before we get controller that will perform in similar functionality to that of the Wii for the other consoles.

DaSickNinja said...

Unlike the PS3, which is so expensive, it falls into that dangerous category know as "niche" the Wii takes us back to the days of the NES. Its fun, has a wide level of difficulties, the games have excellent replay value, and are just plain innovative. Yes the PS3 has Blu-ray, yes the PS3 has the power of X amount of Cell's, but what can you really say makes the PS3 so much of a must have item compared to the PS2? Graphics? If I was aching for more pixels, I'll upgrade the GFX card in my rig. HD content? A TV tuner would fulfill the same need, and my 360 can do the same for cheaper. Blu-ray? I'm not touching either format till a clear winner is selected (yeah, remember the Betamax).

"More importantly, it all boils down to the Wii having Never-Neverland syndrome. It's a gaming system for kids. I've said this before - it just doesn't appeal to most young males I've talked to which are the main buyers. I've actually heard a few people call the Wii 'gay'." Hmm, I didn't know that the game industry depended solely on the patronage of 18 - 27 year old males for survival. Take a look at the Nintendo SP and the DS. Mass appeal usually beats niche marketing.

As for BADD, (Rahul.. its good enough) the debut of the Core has seemed to breathe life back into AMD. And from taking a look at the road maps for both companies, innovation will be a key word for quite a few quarters. Both companies have received kicks to their figurative butts that they won't forget for a while. Barcelona, Penryn... the future looks bright for enthusiasts.

Muchos gracias to Mr Sood for the ability to make our voices heard.

Chad said...

I agree about game play being the biggest reason for a platform's success. BUT, Until PS3 gets a HUGE hit, i don't think they'll attract more than previous ps2 owners. The Nintendo will have a hard time breaking into xbox and ps2 owners, but has done great on entirely new users. I think the xbox will do good once Halo 3 comes out. I sill play Halo 2 with first-timers and get them excited enought to want an xbox JUST to play halo 2. When Halo 3 becomes a hit, THEN i could see new users to xbox 360, new will continue to go to wii, but I don't see any HUGE game coming to ps3 that would make me or my friends want one...

IT Kitty Cat said...

I agree with you on the arrogance issue. I think you realize that you may be on the edge and can fall anytime in that sea.

However, I want to ask you about the Dell arrogance.. Do you see them realizing that problem? Their arrogance put them where they are now. Michael is definitely smart, but is he dymanic enought. what signs do you see?


Anonymous said...


Then he said, “There’s no way Intel can ever catch up.” And that, in one line, is Fred Weber

Anonymous said...

I don't think the wii is a gimic, but I'm not really into any of the "new" consoles.

Speaking of neo-geo I still collect jamma pcbs and kits, and have a pretty complete neo-geo MVS collection. When their games moved to the atomiswave I sprung for one of those (and was suprised by the other quality games released for it Hokuto No Ken being a main one).

Sony's arrogance has turned me off for this generation. I don't appreciated being used to win a format war.

Brian said...

I go to a tech college, and you can you usually see the winds of change here before they hit mainstream (3rd Gen iPods were very popular here, which was 1 Gen before they became the most popular Christmas present). The Wii is definitely not a fad and is extremely popular on my campus (that 18-24 range that jorge erroneously generalizes about). Although I agree that it will not achieve dominance, because the Xbox360 is also a very good piece of electronics (the only thing MS does well, in my opinion). They definitely can coexist, because they do very different things.

To dismiss the system as a "kiddie" system misses the boat completely. Just because it features many animated titles does not make it a "kiddie system." The gameplay is great, and the current games are very fun, without all of the HD graphics awesomness that seems to be the only thing that matters to so-called "hardcore gamers."

Brian said...

btw, here's another "kiddie" system that just might surprise everyone.


(The DS is also very popular here.)

Eddie said...

Hello, Mr. Sood. This post is another one which inspired me to write about, you may find it here.

In summary, after both AMD and Intel became arrogant, they are now seriously concentrated on business and that's good for everyone.

Perhaps BADD may be referred to as Development-Hindering Arrogance Syndrome (DHAS) ;-)

K said...

Indeed a great article.

Charlie Griffiths said...

I came across an article, or editorial have you, in a recent computer publication written by an airlines customer who complained about the way he was treated by the airlines staff. My first thoughts when reading the article had me thinking "what is all the crying about?" So you missed your flight because the airline failed to communicate with you. So what! That is the nature of the business. My second thought as I carefully re-read the paragraphs of detailed complaints was "wait a minute, this fella or customer seems to have had series of valid complaints much of which he was his own doing". My final thoughts brought be back to the initial story line, "Evangelist", in the article.

Why would anyone bring a message of "faith, gospel or conversion" to a reader of computer magazines?
To understand the "why" required all but a small communication to the writer of that article, a simple email of which I did not expect a response. Simply the editor of the magazine article and this biog. suggested I read something titled BADD and I have to say that may have been converted. ....me and maybe converted me as well.

Digging into this blog., and I'll be frank when I tell you I never read "blogs", required BADD - Blind Arrogance Developmental Disorder. Sounds like a good summary for the description of symptoms.

When I think of the word arrogance it makes me cringed for two reasons,

I) I always have to look up the word to characterize it, and ii) somehow I know it’s a "bad" word, one of those words that typically has a prelude of thrown tomatoes at the listener followed by a feeling of unknown reason of guilt.

My ignorance of arrogance is quite simple, I'm probably too arrogant to know I may suffer from it.
As my college English teacher once told me "Your writing is so, well so idiosyncratic only you can understand the message". When I asked him if he had a suggestion to improve my writing or message skills he suggested that I purchase The Concise English Dictionary.

So I acted on his suggestion and bought the book. "English" or grammar was never my strong point in early school years however with my new tool in hand the first word I looked up was "idiosyncratic". "Ah Ha" I say. So that is my problem! My problem is that I am behaving or thinking in a peculiar way.
It is bad enough that my spelling sucks and my sentences are worse. No one is getting my message.

So I ponder the word "arrogance" when it comes to the way I handle my customers complaints.
Here I sit. The Oz of my products and peers. How dare some idiot question my knowledge or the integrity of my products and services. Could I be suffering from BADD?

Well lets take out the dictionary so I can better understand this acronym:

Blind - lacking the power of sight; unable to see. Well maybe on occasion I could have this small problem.

Arrogance - having an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities. Who. Me?

Developmental - the action of developing or the state of being developed. I'll blame that on my high school English teachers.

Disorder - a lack of order; confusion. I agree. I am totally confused when it comes to idiot customers.

So here I sit. Rationalizing in my perfect world. Trying to put all this together.

Could I have a BADD problem. How does this relate to my business, my customers and my future?

I believe the problem, as I rationalize it, of the flaming idiot customer I occasionally encounter lies in the possibility that both sides (he/she and me) could be arrogant. A situation where to two chesty, self important, assured, and stubborn individuals simply butt heads.
What I call, and please excuse the lacking sophistication with this 'end, tip', simply SHIT (stubborn- individual - hackle - time). And frankly there is nothing you can do once the wheels are in motion. SHIT is an unstoppable event. Then again maybe it can be stopped or curtailed.

Objectively, for the BADD business owner, such events never have positive outcomes. Not only can the business lose the client in a head on battle of stubbornness, if you are flamed publicly in our new global society of forums, blogs, websites and personal video clips, the collateral damage is quite costly. Whether the complaining customer is right or wrong does not matter much. Whether they are justified in public tar and feathering does not matter either. As they say... once you put it in writing you can't take it back. Once the words are said you can't take them back.

I asked the owner of this biog. "Is there book out there for us (me the arrogant business person)". His response was simply "you never know". I found this response truly frustrating. Heck, there are books out there! For one there is Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. A timeless piece written the old fashion way (printed on paper, bound and sold in book stores and probably in your local library). Have I ever read it? Hell no! I'm too arrogant. I don't have time to drive to the library.
Printed books only clutter the shelf. And I'm too busy with more important things to do than read about something that tells me the obvious, or something that could make me cringed. But what the heck.

I'm on a roll here so I'll go on-line and look up his book. Here is what I found, and if I may bore you the details of the obvious things I forget living day to day:

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain.
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six ways to make people like you

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Smile.
3. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
6. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.

Win people to your way of thinking

1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong."
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Get the other person saying "yes, yes" immediately.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing

A leader's job often includes changing your people's attitudes and behavior. Some suggestions to accomplish this:

1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
2. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
5. Let the other person save face.
6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be
"hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise."
7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

So where does all this writing and pondering leave me, the arrogant
business owner who has too many things to do during a busy day to put up
the occasional complaining customer? Is it nobler to continue down my
idiosyncratic road in life, sheltered by my own exaggerated sense of
and abilities. Or, is it wiser to weigh the calculable costs of a biting
my tongue, using better patience while listening to the crying customer,
and simply
say "You are right. We sincerely apologize for the confusion and
misunderstanding. I'll take care of this problem for you right away"!

vulcan said...

My observations say that the more responsibility the leader has to face the less BADD happens. The problem is in most corporations the leaders are like kings - and nobody is shouting when the king is naked.

How probable it is that Ottellini/Sood/Dell/Gates/Ruiz loses his position over BADD? Answer this question and you'll know the probability if BADD will happen to the organization.

I've seen organizations where the most obvious things that the CEO is doing wrong are suppressed. And when somebody makes a joke about it in a meeting somebody always says aloud "IT WAS A JOKE" :P . Now that's BADD.

Anonymous said...

The Greeks had a name for it - hubris and it was inevitably followed by the great equaler of the proud, Nemesis.

BADD is a good acronym though.

There is a lot of it about, could be a virus...


ebh said...

Rahul, this is something that affects empires of all kinds. Look at GM,Ford ,Chrysler and Toyota. Compare the USAF F-22 and the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Swedish Viggen. You can buy 6 Typhoons or Viggens for the cost of 1 F-22.

On the computer front, I would allege that AMD's BADD is mismanagement of the press release. Intel has sought a quick fix in the Core 2 design. Look at the HPC Challenge awards sponsored by DARPA and IEEE. IBM received 8 awards and AMD4. Intel received 0. For FY2007 DARPA/DOE/NSF awarded 2 contracts to IBM, 1 IBM/AMD design, 1 AMD/Voltaire design, 1 Sun/AMD design, and 6 AMD/Cray designs. Total is about $1.5 Billion. Intel got nothing. The reason being that Intel is a relatively poor performer in double precision computing. The use of Northbridge memory control is both high latency and incompatible with the SeaStar chip controller design. The second flaw is the use of 3 simple and 1 complex instruction decoders instead of 3 complex decoders per core as AMD,Sun and IBM use. The end result there was that single core Cray XT3's could beat Core 2 designs handily and dual cores beat the QX6700 entry in HPC and SPP. The simple decoders don't support full 64 bit instructions and s it idle.

M.H. said...

Your article is so timely and I hate to say applies to every facet of human endeavor. I intend to print it and keep it as a reminder of where you can wind up if you become self satisfied.


Rahul Sood said...

Interesting how successful the WII actually became and will continue to be. I guess the methodology works.