Strategy lessons from the greatest CEO in tech history … and it's not Jobs

The recent death of Andy Grove passed unremarked in the Australian press.  Grove has been called the greatest CEO in tech history: he mentored a young Steve Jobs.  A former Intel CEO, Grove was responsible for the transformation of Intel from a ‘memory company’ to a ‘microprocessor company’.  Few companies have successfully redefined themselves so fundamentally.  When Grove stepped down as CEO in 1998 Intel was earning $6.9B profit on $25B revenue. 

The story of the transformation remains a classic case study in strategic leadership.  

I highlight three key lessons and suggest some practices you build into your personal leadership repertoire.

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Understanding the disruption engine: what can I do?

In Zero to One Peter Thiel decried Silicon Valley’s obsession with disruption, declaring “disruption has transmogrified itself into a self-congratulatory buzzword for anything new and trendy”.  He’s not alone.  And yet we can’t help be fascinated by the increasing number of genuinely disruptive business models.  According to CB Insights, there are 113 private companies currently valued at more than $1B (unicorns), including well known examples such as Uber ($45B), AirBnB ($10B) and DropBox ($9.5B).  To put this into perspective, Uber has about the same market capitalisation as Wesfarmers, one of Australia’s top companies (#7 on the ASX by market cap)[1].

Fascinating as these stories are, they do little to help executives and Boards evaluate the risks and opportunities for disruptive business models. What will help are models or frameworks which explain the phenomenon.  And at the end I offer a few thoughts about how you can 'protect' yourself from risk of disruption. 

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