Only The Paranoid Will Survive: Intel’s MD

Only The Paranoid Will Survive: Intel’s MD

Back in 1961, Intel invented the world’s first microprocessor that was commercially available- it was the incumbent of computer technology. Yesterday the crowd at Daze of Disruption learnt how Intel has tried to keep up with the evolution of computer technology since 1961.

ERIN MARY Doyle
Posted by ERIN MARY Doyle

Australian managing director of Intel, Kate Burleigh told the crowd at Daze about three main lessons learnt by Intel around this transformation agenda.

“I was asked today to talk about the art of transformation; when you think about a business like Intel it’s definitely a business that has been through one hell of a transformation over many years,” Burleigh said.

The Revolving Door Test

“Back in 1968 we were actually a memory business; the micro processer was something people played with over on the edge. Intel’s main capital, the way the company was making money and lots of investment was in the business of memory.

“In 1972, Intel entered the digital watch market. This was a big bet the company made to move into digital watches and we thought it was a piece of tech that would really put us on the map.”

The digital watch market was an “absolute total failure”. Burleigh said that one of the founders of Intel still wears his digital watch, not because he likes it, “It’s to remind him that if he ever thinks about getting into consumer products again, the trouble it causes.”

The revolving door test is all about asking yourself ‘What would happen if the board brought in a new CEO? What would they do differently?’

Instead of someone disurpting your company and catching you by surprise- do it yourself. “It’s about emotionally giving yourself permission to let go, which is asking yourself what would someone else do if they were an external consultant looking at the company.”

Disrupt Or Be Disrupted

“At Intel we are always canabilising our own products, taking risks and reinventing ourselves continually to this day.

“I’ve worked at Intel for 18 years, I’ve never been in the same job (until this one) for more than two years. The reason why is we keep killing off what we did yesterday and reinventing for today.

“We put relentless pressure on the design and engineering teams to not rest on our laurels, to come up with the next best things because if we didn’t someone else would. There’s a huge focus on that canibalisation of our own product, but at the same time taking tremoundous risks around the brand.”

It’s a high reward, but high risk. “There’s that constant striving to reinvent because we could sit there and say ‘hey, I’ve got 90 per cent of the PC market but I still have one customer that won’t go for me’. We have to keep going and reinventing, striving and not resting on our laurels”.

Only The Paranoid Survive

“This really defines the culture at Intel. Success breeds complacency, complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive. This pretty much sums up the tech industry but I don’t think it’s unique to the tech industry.

“If you’re not looking and thinking about what you’re going to do next. If you’re number one and the dominate player, you could easily fall off that list.”

Burleigh admitted that as an incumbent it is hard to continually evolve and keep on your toes. “Never take your incumbency for granted. It is hard to kill off old products, it takes humility to admit that you thought you were on a winning streak but it was a failure.

“It especially takes clarity of what your culture is inside to constantly change- what is the one constant that your culture will always stand for? Even though you’re changing strategies and products. What is constant?”