After the Japanese company Fujitsu was acknowledged as having developed the world’s fastest supercomputer, we spent time talking to those involved with its development.

The computer was nicknamed K, a play on the Japanese word kei, meaning the number 10 to the power of 16. It is a big number and a big project, with a $1 billion development budget and more than 1,000 people involved. Development began in 2007 and ended in 2012, with the K being celebrated as the fastest of the fastest.

We met with the managers and leaders who were involved in this huge project. We were struck by two things. The first was the down-to-earth nature of those involved. Those on the Fujitsu team were not classic Silicon Valley types. They were not hip or ...

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