My first moment of optimism at the World Economic Conference came Thursday night a small dinner with retiring Intel Chairman Craig Barrett. He is riding off into the sunset soon to his ranch in Montana—a ranch you can stay at, ride horses, fly-fish and get pampered.
Barrett said this was his 10th recession. And this, too, would pass. To those of us caught up in the economic crisis, this long-term perspective was comforting. He said, yes, this recession was different, but “they are all different.”
The key to surviving in this kind of environment? Invest into the recession. Barrett said you have to investment into a recession to be more competitive when you come out of it. Cutting costs is a sure way to lose competitive edge. So Intel was closing some of its older factories but expanding its newer plants. And its aiming to diversify into a broader range of chips to drive growth.
Barrett also said that big corporations are really bad at disruptive innovation. The financial constraints are just to tight to allow that kind of risk-taking. He wants the government to put more money into University-based research and large lab-based research. That’s where the new ideas come from that change the world. He graduated from Stanford.
And while he thinks Andy Grove is great, Barrett doesn’t think Grove’s idea for having Intel produce batteries for electric cars (no US company does it), is a good one. Intel just doesn’t have any unique competitive edge in batteries, he said.
That’s the Intel chairman riding off into the sunset,
Then I left for the parties—McKinsey, which had a live band playing LOUD music and the Bollywood Party, where everyone was dancing to the music of India. I hear Mexico threw a good party as well.