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What Peanut Butter and Microsoft Can Teach You About Your Business

April 3, 2015

I like peant butter. I especially like it with rasberry jam on my wife’s homemade bread. 



I have a housefull of teenagers. Five of them are boys. Two of them are rugby players. So, the bread. . .and the peanut butter go pretty quickly. It seems like every time I want a sandwich I’m confronted with a near empty jar of peanut butter. You know the kind? Where you hold the knife with two fingers and dig at the bottom while trying to keep your fingers from bumping against the top of the jar and getting smeared.

Have you ever wondered why that works? I mean, why you can get that last bit of peanut butter? 

I worked for Microsoft for much of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. During that time Microsoft and Intel created one of the greatest corporate partnerships in the history of business. Like Brangelia, it had its own cool nickname, Wintel. It was an awesome partnership for everyone except maybe the end users. Heres how it would work. 

Microsoft comes out with a new version of Windows, say Windows 98. The new operating system would run on your existing hardware. . .just not super well. It would run so much better if you updated to the newest processor, made by Intel. Or, you went out and bought a new processor. If you really wanted to get the most out of your new hardware, you needed to update to the latest version of Windows. 

This upgrade cycle rolled over about every 18 months. It sold billions of dollars worth of hardware and software. Microsoft and Intel went together like peanut butter and jelly. 

It’s easy to look at the Wintel partnership and think that it’s just the way things turned out. They they fell together like some sort of happy accident. They didn’t. There were some other companies competing for your computing dollar as the 20th century drew to a close. Microsoft Windows was competing with IBM Warp and other less well funded products. Intel was fighting off a serious threat from AMD. The Wintel parnership, while not an official partnership was great for both companies. And had the advantage of making it harder on their competitors. 

Think about your office. Are there natural synergies that exist between departments? How do you recognize when synergies would be helpful to try to create? 

Obviously, like any transaction, there has to be something for each group. But, when I looked for these synergies in companies I worked for, I didn’t approach other departments or groups with an explanation of how we could work together and help them. Instead, I explained how a closer working relationship would help me.

Selfishness, or self interest, works. And the reason it works is that it’s based on honesty. We’ve all been approached by sales people who want to “help us.” Maybe they want to put us in a new car, or sell us a new security system, or any number of things. Do you think that salesperson is just helping you? No. He’s also helping himself. And if they are upfront with that fact, I know they are being honest with me. 

At my current job, I work very closely with a number of teams. One of them is our Desktop Engineering team. I really need this team to help me. Normally we have to enter a ticket to get an engineer to help with something. Tickets can take days to get addressed. I’ve made it a point to befriend our Desktop team. They know that I need them in order for me to be successful. At the same time, I try to help make their jobs easier. 

It’s a win for both of us. 

So, what’s this have to do with peanut butter? 

Remember trying to get the last of the peanut butter out of the bottom? Have you ever wondered about the knife you are using? Peanut butter jar makers realized that they were constrained by the size of the knife. And while I’ve often had to scrape the last of the peanut butter out of the jar, I’ve never found a case where the jar was so tall I couldn’t reach it. 

The jar is a perfect match for the size of the knives in your kitchen drawer. 

Some synergies are so seamless you don’t even notice them. Those are the best kinds. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 
Follow him on Twitter (@rodneymbliss
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One Comment
  1. Reach for the “million dollar tool”, Rodney. Grab a rubber spatula.

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