Here's my favorite excerpt from the first article (Gates without Microsoft):
"The classic CEO needs to be right, or rather needs to appear to be right more than he needs to actually be right - and that's not Bill," says his pal Myhrvold. "Lewis and Clark were lost most of the time. If your idea of exploration is to always know where you are and to be inside your zone of competence, you don't do wild new shit. You have to be confused, upset, think you're stupid. If you're not willing to do that, you can't go outside the box."
And that explains the third dimension of Bill Gates' new life - giving that "world-class curiosity" some room to run. His reading and learning have always been systematic. It's his nature. His father and sisters recall how young Bill would refuse to leave his room to come to the dinner table because he was too busy "thinking." But for many years, as he built Microsoft, his field of vision was of necessity rather narrow. One of the most important experiences that jostled him out of his single-mindedness was his first meeting with Buffett, on July 5, 1991. As Gates tells the story:
My mom called me at the office to come out to Hood Canal for a Fourth of July barbecue because she wanted me to meet Warren Buffett. And I said, "Mom, I'm working." But she insisted. So I took a helicopter so I could spend my couple of hours there and then get back quickly and work on software.
Then I met Warren, and I thought, "Oh, wow, this guy isn't just about buying and selling stocks and businesses. He is thinking about how the world works." And he asked me questions that I always wanted somebody to ask me, about why hadn't IBM (IBM, Fortune 500) been able to do what we had done, and how software gets priced, and why does one company have a defensible position. He wanted to understand the dynamics of the industry. To me it was way far away from, "What is your company worth?"
Then he explained to me about how Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) had not only changed things in its business, but how it had an effect on newspapers because they thought of their advertising differently than individual local stores had. And he talked about how banking really worked in terms of credit risk. The whole time all I could think was, "Hey, I'll be smarter about running Microsoft after I talk to this guy." And so I stayed the whole day.
Ever since then, Gates has tried to make more time to broaden his knowledge, and his capacity to absorb ideas has served Microsoft and the foundation well. But now reading, learning, and blue-sky brainstorming will be considered an integral part of his job description, and no doubt they will yield something.
So how will they be without each other? Will be interesting to see...
If you haven't seen this video he made for CES 2008 about this day, it's pretty funny: