Last month I managed to make it up to Oxford to listen to Craig Barrett speak at the Said Business School to a group of MBA students and members of the Technology Futures Network. The first event of the TFN at the same venue saw Dr Irwin Jacobs of Qualcomm and so it was good to hear another from the chip industry talk.
Craig Barrett has been with Intel from the early days having joined from the teaching staff at Stanford University. He spoke about the fact that what any country needs to succeed in the present climate is an Environment for Innovation. The first thing that is needed is Smart People, these are well educated in mathematics and science rather than business and finance. The next thing that is needed in Smart Ideas, these are both basic development and Blue Sky research. Finally what is needed is Smart Environments this is somewhere that has Money, Government that taxes smart and offers innovators protection and promotion of their ideas.
Craig went on to talk about planning to eat your own children i.e. what you are doing today will not do for next year therefore if it has to change then you should be the one that does that change. Look for the Technology Transformation in a sector and grasp the opportunity to upset the status quo and lead that industry. He used the rise of Nokia and fall of Motorola to demonstrate the change to digital in mobile telecommunications in the mid 1990's.
One of his grips was that the Bush Government has let the R&D Tax credit system lapse and so now US businesses are offshoring Research and Development because of the tax rates. Intel at present invests 50% of its budget in South East Asia. His other major grip is the quality of maths education in the under 12's if a child has a bad teacher in these early school years they are lost to maths because they cannot catch up.
His advise to the MBA students in the room was that they should have read engineering if they want to be a CEO. The reason is that it equips you to be a better problem solver. Once you have a management position act like a pre-school child and always ask why - five times to get to the bottom of the problem/issue.
Finally he said that once you become an Executive eat out at the chinese regularly as the best advice he has had was from the fortune cookies. His top three are
- "If you want to win you have to chose to compete"
- "Small deeds done better than great deeds planned" and
- "The world is always ready to receive talent with open arms"
After two weeks of working hard to prove assumptions on models in a changing market his opening comment that the future is knowledge therefore education is critical are wise words.