If you walked out the door of your organization and walked back in as “new management,” what would you change? If that’s not a question you are asking yourself, you should.
The greatest leadership challenge any organization faces is to develop the momentum and the strategy for change, even when the need for change isn’t immediately apparent. Those leaders that can conceptually walk out and come back through the door of their organization in varying conditions will thrive. Those that can’t, may not.
It starts with that question of what you should do differently. It was that question started the process for one of the most transformative companies in history.
Intel Corporation has been a highly successful company, reaching nearly $80 billion revenue company in 2021. But in 1984 market conditions forced the company to consider what they should do. Intel was in trouble. After nearly two decades of success, they found themselves in a battle in the market for memory Integrated Circuits (ICs). Japanese competitors, funded with low-cost debt, increased memory density and quality while building the manufacturing capacity to significantly drive down memory costs. As Andy Grove, the eventual CEO of Intel described it, he, then CEO Robert Noyce, and co-founder Gordon Moore were perplexed at what to do until they resolved to “Walk back through the door” and fix their problem as if they were the new management team.
That approach led to a series of difficult decisions that led them to leave one market and totally transform another, computer CPUs. They remade the rules for what it takes to be a microprocessor company, creating a better personal computer experience for hundreds of millions of customers and leading Intel to more than 30 years of unparalleled market growth.
As I have had the privilege of meeting with and working with management teams from hundreds of organizations, I have come to see that leadership teams almost universally struggle with three fundamental elements of their business. Specifically, how to:
This is understandable at the early stages of the company when an organization seeks product-market fit. However, it often leads to moving forward without a clear strategy. The result is a product that is different without being differentiated and a leadership failure to create real long-term advantage.
The type of transformative change that organizations need to create today isn’t accomplished with great innovative technology alone. While product or technical innovation is essential, focusing on it exclusively will not produce the type of change that shakes up market leadership and rebalances the odds in a company’s favor.
Unfortunately, most leaders don’t know where to start. So how can leaders walk out the door and come back through again with a fresh perspective on how to change? Here are three essential questions they should ask themselves that will take them down the right vectors of how to create more innovative outcomes:
1. How would we deliver something truly game-changing for our customers? Research shows companies that focus on delivering different customer outcomes create better market opportunities, shift and expand markets, and create strategic asymmetries.
2. How do we create a strategy for market leadership? Great companies create an innovate to win approach by seeking to identify and attract new customers, simplify to expand their market, creatively borrow from others, break industry rules, and create more profitable business models.
3. How do we retool our organization to improve our ability to be successful today and in the future? Asking this question acknowledges that innovative organizations are founded in strong cultures, creating company-wide intent, and developing an ability to identify and overcome challenges faster than the competition.
These questions are relevant whether you are an incumbent, challenger, or new market start up. A survey of Fortune 500 CEOs found that 94% agreed that their company would need to change more in the next five years than it had in the last five. My upcoming book, Transformative outlines how each organization can identify the answers to these questions and outline their path to game-changing success.
Your market may not be changing as abruptly as Intel’s was in 1984, but if you’re not looking for how to create the momentum and strategy for change, someone else is.
William Kilmer is a venture capital investor at C5 Capital, former CEO and managing director at Intel Capital. He is the author of the upcoming book, Transformative: Build a Game-Changing Strategy, Retool Your Organization, and Innovate to Win. For more information, visit Williamkilmer.com
 “A Marketplace Without Boundaries? Responding to Disruption,” 18th Annual PWC CEO Survey, 2015.
#innovation #culture #Intel