Here’s why Intel’s CEO thinks companies like his own go wrong

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, fan of slightly frozen PB&J.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, fan of slightly frozen PB&J.
Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
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Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who took over the chip maker’s top job last May, this week went on Reddit for an “ask me anything” question and answer session. In addition to revealing that his favorite sandwich is slightly frozen peanut butter and jelly, Krzanich talked about where Intel went wrong, what he sees for the future, and what it means to be a great leader. Here are some of the most interesting parts:

Spectacular technology isn’t worth much if it’s not great to use

For technology like computer chips, the focus can be on making the fastest, most powerful piece of technology. Intel succeeded in many ways on that score, which ended up being a weakness as consumers shifted to mobile. Asked about what’s pushing the best hardware development Krzanich said it’s all about what the user actually sees and holds:

Experience. It’s very clear you can make some great products with amazing technology. But it’s about experience. Without a great user experience from the un-boxing onwards, you don’t have a product. This is where I think Intel has had to make the most change over the last few years. We now spend a huge amount of time up front thinking about the experiences we want a user to have before we put one transistor on the chip.

Missing out on huge trends is easier than people think

According to Krzanich, Intel missed the mobile and tablet market because it focused too much on the market it wanted, instead of the one that was evolving.
“We wanted the world of computing to stop at PCs, and the world, as it never does, didn’t stop innovating,” Krzanich wrote. “The new CEO of Microsoft Satya [Nadella] said it well the other day: ‘Our industry does not respect tradition, it respects innovation.’ I think he was 100% right, and it’s why we missed the mobile move.”

Great leaders do much more than motivate

There’s an appealing myth, fueled by leaders like Steve Jobs, that CEOs are meant to be great motivators and visionaries. The very best ones know how to actually get things done, Krzanich says:

To say a great leader simply motivates their people is true, but it’s too simple. Sure, every great leader has the ability to motivate people. But that alone is not enough. Motivated people with no clear direction are not a winning team. The vision to strategy piece is very important, and then you have to be able to get things done, to build a product, or have people around you who can.