“What does Foresight have in common with astrophotography? In both, you try to extract the maximum of signals from the noise out there in order to get a clear picture in the end.” – John Miranda
In this episode of the ITONICS Innovation Rockstars podcast, our CEO Dr. Christian Mühlroth talks with John Miranda, Director of Strategy, Office Data Center, and the AI group at Intel. John's first coding attempts in high school on a Commodore 64 eventually brought him to Intel, where he today leads an enterprise-wide foresight program for emerging trends in the Data Center and AI business unit. Chris and John take a critical look at the validity of Moore’s Law and look back at the beginnings of the Intel Foresight Program. What are the key dos and don’ts when it comes to enabling Foresight in a global company like Intel, and how does a down-to-earth and responsible corporate culture pay off on this issue?
Moore's Law and Corporate Foresight
Chris: Hi, and welcome back to another episode of “Innovation Rockstars”. My name is Chris Mühlroth, and in this episode, I am glad to welcome John Miranda, Director of the Strategy Office, Data Center and AI Group at Intel. John is a busy man at Intel - overseeing and responsible for marketing technology and its proliferation, identifying strategic opportunities and shortcomings, offering recommendations, and working with the senior leadership team to shape investment actions across Intel's Data Center and the AI Group.
John, thank you so much for your time. It is an absolute pleasure having you.
John: Thank you so much, Chris. Glad to be here.
Chris: All right. As usual, let's kick things off with a short sixty seconds introduction sprint. It's all about you, your career and your role at Intel. For the next sixty seconds, the virtual stage is all yours.
John: Alright. Dating back to high school, I was heavily involved in programming - Commodore pads, Commodore 64's, Apple two's - so I was quite the computer geek and possibly not the most popular kid in high school. That led to getting a degree in computer science and another degree in business. I worked at Ford Motor Company and then made my way to Intel. I worked on application development and then led a team of application developers at Intel. Soon enough, I started to get fascinated about the ecosystem in technology and where it was headed, including what role Intel would play in all that. So, I was allowed to run Intel's corporate foresight program and subsequently discovered that developing strategies could be just as rewarding. I've been involved with the data center within the AI Strategic Office ever since.
Chris: Awesome! Coming up next, I have three sentence starters for you that I would like you to complete. Let's start with number one: "I usually start my mornings with…"
John: Coffee, checking on the news and letting the dogs do their business.
Chris: Great start! On to number two: "Astro-imaging is…"
John: …a perfect way to burn a lot of money and deprive yourself of sleep. I spent a few years programming and calibrating the telescope and the camera that enabled you to capture a few 100 occurrences in the middle of the night. The next day you were rewarded with all these files and tried to extract the maximum signals from the captured noise the night before. In some ways, parallels can be drawn to foresight programming, which confirms that I am a geek at heart.
Chris: Those are some remarkable parallels. By the way, I have seen some of those images, and they are imposing. Last but not least: "I work at Intel because..."
John: Three things spring to mind. The first is the opportunity to interact and work with brilliant people, something I appreciate immensely. Second, I consider myself within a role where you never cease to learn. That aspect is very humbling and rewarding to me. The third piece is the opportunity to shape the company and ecosystem; that does not even touch on how the industry excites and draws me in like no other.
Chris: Truly an excellent mindset to have, especially when it all seamlessly clicks together. Thanks, John! I couldn't help but notice that you have a passion for travelling and landscape photography, and a flair for astro-imaging as well. A quick note to our viewers, I wholeheartedly recommend everyone to visit John's site at johnmiranda.com and take a peek at the featured selection of images. They are impressive. John, what is the next country you would consider visiting?
John: I've missed out on some enticing travelling options because of COVID. I was supposed to go to Europe, then that got postponed. Next up was Japan, which fell through, and we had to cancel that. Maybe the whole thing is like a sign to be more modest and view items more relaxed and straightforwardly. For instance, my family and I are moving to the central coast of California, a beautiful area enhanced by a stunning backdrop of mountains. I might consider travelling one county over and riding my bicycle or driving around for a while and enjoying some new parks instead of constantly thinking about getting on a long-haul flight. Nonetheless, I appreciate and miss visiting Europe. So, I am not sure yet.
Future of Moore’s law
Chris: Let's talk about a topic that has seen some controversy for quite some time now. That topic is Moore's law, and how about a quick recap of what it is about. In 1965 Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, said that the number of transistors bundled into a given space unit would double every two years. However, Moore did not christen this observation as a given law but merely made that statement that eventually became a prediction; somehow, it became a sort of law shortly after that.
Fast-forwarding to today, the anticipation is, that we will soon see three nodes - known officially as nanometers - embedded into commercial production. Nanometers are incredibly small; putting numbers to it would be 1,000,000,000th of a meter. If I recall correctly, Intel predicts the output of two nanometers by 2024 and 1.8 nanometers by 2025. Despite all of that, however, we've heard many times that Moore's Law was considered null and void, thus no longer considered valid. These transistors dive into the atomic scale, and signs of increased manufacturing costs appear to be more prevalent. Are we witnessing the end of Moore's law for real this time, John?
John: Right. Let's expand on that. Many predictions were made, even when transistors were 1,000x larger than today. It was perceived as the end of the line, and nothing beyond that in the realm of possibilities. However, the boundaries continue to be pushed; certainly, Intel is not unique in that regard. Even looking as far ahead as five to ten years from now, we are still seeing a continued reduction in size for transistors. Nevertheless, there are and always have been challenges. One that comes to mind is where we had that thermal barrier around four gigahertz in 2000. I remember, during that time, there was a lot of buzz in enhanced computing since programs ran faster every 18 months to two years; then we hit four gigahertz, and things got too hot.
That prompted us to look for ways around it, and that way was the turn towards multi-core. We went from a single core and threaded performance to two, four, or even eight. That, in turn, forced a change in programming models, an adaption of the notion of “computing in parallel” by exploiting and utilizing each core's performance simultaneously. Inevitably, however, we're going to hit some new limits around room availability to fit more and more cores. The positive is that this fuels a lot of avenues for innovation. For example, you can look at domain-specific architectures, like GPUs and FPGAs. These can be tailored to handle a specific workload demand and produce performance. Looking farther out, optical computing might make a grand entrance, but that is still in development, which promises much higher orders of performance and energy savings. For certain types of workloads, you have things like quantum computing that could be an option in the foreseeable future. I'd also like to mention one of the last years of innovation, packaging.
It's about combining different tiles - for lack of better words - that are all arranged in such a way to provide optimized computing for various functions. That effectively allows you to get more computing power condensed into a smaller area at lower costs. All in all, I believe we still have ten years worth of improvements ahead of us, but it is getting significantly more complex.
Chris: I can imagine! However, given what we have seen lately, ten years is still plenty of time for rapid technological advancement. What about cloud computing? You mentioned simultaneous utilization or parallelism, but would Moore's law still be applicable in that area? Cloud computing offers undeniable advantages, such as vast and scalable resources on-demand and foremost, it does not require frequent hardware upgrades while still providing outstanding performance. So, is the law still as relevant as it was five or ten years ago?
John: I believe so. In fact, I am more than ever convinced, since the rate of data center proliferation is moving at a very rapid pace. That pace goes hand in hand with the world becoming more digitized; developing countries are catching up technologically, and they'll need access to cloud computing. An AI can consume an enormous amount of computing resources. Don't forget the computing on edge, like a decentralized cloud. Think of future autonomous cars, essentially a computer with four tires mounted. It will be its own data center. The same can be said for smart factories and cities, where an immense amount of data will be generated at insane velocities, which will make a cloud not very feasible; thus, you'll need more decentralized data centers. I cannot foresee that as any slowdown in any of that.
Trendsetters, drivers of change, and distractors
Chris: Let's stick a little longer to these future outlooks and topics you've just mentioned for another moment. As we all know, change is the only constant, right? So remaining on that theme, what are some of the most significant drivers of change, trendsetters, and possible distractors in the immediate future?
John: Right. I believe that sustainability and the carbon-climate crisis will be the number one thing that will affect us over the next several decades; it has already started to happen in any case. That has implications for computing, which requires enormous amounts of energy to perform and harbors opportunities for computing. Other areas that'll see changes are computers going through their respective eras. The first era was coupling computing with a keyboard. The second was combining computing with smartphones. Now we are entering the third era, decentralized computing that is all around us. That trend holds elements of a sort of Metaverse that might play into becoming more immersed in that computing environment.
I think we're going to start seeing that transformation over the next few years in terms of generative AI. The spill-over effect is the progress that's been happening in natural language processing, where computing is getting close to becoming your assistant author or summarizing books for you. No doubt, we're going to start seeing some dramatic change happening there in the next few years in the shape of digital personas. Geopolitical trends and the rise of populism certainly have their unique contributions to the amplification of media content going viral. That's very apparent already with the slew of followers who consume content - whether anchored in truth or not - on an unparalleled level. Debates on trust and validity will take center stage, and how computing amplifies that noise is something we need to consider carefully going forward.
“I believe that sustainability and the carbon-climate crisis will be the number one thing that will affect us over the next several decades; it has already started to happen in any case. That has implications for computing, which requires enormous amounts of energy to perform and harbors opportunities for computing.” – John Miranda
Chris: Absolutely! There are very influential half-truths out there that are often no longer rooted in facts anymore but, as you well said, on the number of followers as an audience. Combine that with the accessibility of social media, and it certainly holds its inherent dangers. In any case, let's return to the topic of sustainability. Hands down, that is a big one. I can imagine that Intel's manufacturing processes are likely very resource-intensive, right? Resources such as water and electricity, etc. What is Intel doing to adhere to sustainable methods and techniques in its operations?
John: Right. In 2020, we offset 81% of our global manufacturing with renewable investments for our corporate sustainability report. We made significant investments in water conservation and restoration. Sustainability includes conflict-free mineral sourcing, and Intel has been taking an important leadership role in that domain for many years. One area that is taking center stage is looking beyond our operations. We ask ourselves questions such as: How are our products used in society? What are their impacts on carbon during manufacturing and energy consumption? Fitting into the circular economy concept, how to keep these things operating longer, and what will their end of life look like? We're starting to recognize and contemplate questions more thoroughly and work with some of our largest customers around sustainability beyond the sale of our product and our manufacturing operations.
Chris: So, in essence, there were a lot of opportunities to uncover and take advantage of. You also briefly mentioned artificial intelligence, specifically generative AI, natural language processing digital personas, etc. Could you explain why you deem them essential and how Intel plans on using AI to innovate?
John: Sure! The area of natural language processing is an interesting one for me. By looking at the latest models, like in the 2020 models called mega models or transformers, they have gone through unprecedented progress. Suppose you have text to process; what you would do is give it a few paragraphs, and it'll generate a few more. If you don't like them, you will press a button, and it generates five other versions, and they are all readable. The basis for natural language is human interaction and, thus, its main reason to exist. When these technologies are hitting a turning point, where computers start interacting in our language, I think this will profoundly affect Intel. If you take a closer look at the term AI, you'll realize that it's a machine continuously learning when you think about it.
This renaissance in statistical machine learning has been used for over a decade in our fabs for yield analysis. When you have two wafers, and one is slightly yielding better results than the other after a multi-month journey with over a million accumulated variables from beginning to end, you might have no idea why one is performing better than the other. At that point, you're applying at-scale statistical machine learning to uncover the subtlety of one that didn't affect the other. Even a 1% yield difference is worth hundreds of millions of dollars for any mega fab when you have multibillion-dollar factories.
Beyond manufacturing, sales and marketing, machine learning is also employed to study customer patterns and sentiments. In our research to elicit insights, we use NLP tools as part of our methodology to scan a vast number of articles to unravel habits and behaviors, etc. Essentially, it's becoming ingrained in many aspects of what we do, day in and day out, and I think that's probably true for many large corporations, not just uniquely at Intel.
Chris: Would you consider that technology is at a level of showing some form of autonomy, or is it still basically a statistical machine that is gradually learning in a controlled or uncontrolled environment but missing that specific intelligence?
John: It's missing, and it's very must still all statistical. You feed it a bazillion data points, and it can do some exciting things. However, it's still weak in terms of reasoning by analogy. These are the kinds of things that humans can do naturally. We used AI as part of our third wave and our expert systems; they were brittle but larger based and explainable. Since we recently entered the statistical machine learning era, which does some fantastic stuff, the machines can't explain why they classified a dog's picture as a cat. It's tough to diagnose and not explainable. It can't adapt or adopt the reasoning and generally apply it to other areas. That will be the next challenge for AI to tackle those problems.
“Since we recently entered the statistical machine learning era, which does some fantastic stuff, the machines still can't explain why they classified a dog's picture as a cat. It's tough to diagnose and not explainable.” – John Miranda
Chris: The often-coined term I come across is “Descriptive AI”, where researchers and scientists are given clues to understanding what is truly happening within the black box instead of unexplainable randomness. I could see AI play an essential role in decision-making as a support element. It would be fascinating to comprehend the reason for any suggestions or conclusions it made, even more so on what data points it used and whatever happened in between within its neural net. In any case, there is still a lot of room for development.
You also mentioned the Metaverse, what would you consider Intel's stake within the Metaverse? I have an idea why Facebook and Nvidia decided to rebrand themselves in one way, shape or form, but what about Intel? Is Intel already securely anchored in the Metaverse like Adidas, for example, spinning their truths and image inside it, or is it possibly a key driver? Perhaps both? What's your take on that?
John: Traditionally, Intel is generally an enabler by providing computing support. It will require enormous computing, graphics networking and data centers. In my role, a recent fundamental interest is the social aspect and thinking about the transmission of presence, especially in this post COVID era. For instance, questions like: What does it mean to be somewhere or not? When do you get on a plane for a meeting, and when do you use this format? Even going as far as thinking about limitations of Zoom, WebEx and other tools that have been wonderful in this era, there's still so much more room to go.
In 2022, we shouldn't have to ask whether any participants can see our presentation. Suppose you had a whiteboard, and you're to design a collaborative system for ITONICS employees that are on multiple continents. How would you design it? Most likely, it wouldn't be the way it is today. I think concepts around more immersive experiences where the audio is coming from the right direction to draw you into the meeting will be an exciting space to watch regarding the future of work. Point in case, within Intel, we're starting to internalize what do those engagements with computing in this way mean and what role do we play? Do we want to play an enabler role, or do we want to play a richer role? I think there are still some questions to be answered there. I believe it will be a transformative experience, and some people have some concerns about that. Circumstances where we will sit around in a basement and put on face masks and pretend we're in Bora Bora in an attempt to escape daily life? I don't know, but it is interesting to see how everything evolves.
Chris: It isn't that the case for all emerging technologies? Let's consider disruptive technologies; dystopia and utopian scenarios are tied to them, but ultimately just riding the hype cycle. Nevertheless, maybe in five or ten years, we will have reached the plateau of productivity. We can take our lessons from that then, but evidently, change always comes with uncertainty and opportunity. I can only assume that it's normal for the Metaverse to explore these scenarios in the future.
John: It is. If I could just add one more thing to that, I was at Institute for the Future a few years ago. It was an exciting experience in their multimedia lab. I put on these VR headsets, and I found myself in an alleyway in China. As part of China, these alleyways, there's always these paintings that wind up in hotels around the world, right? While I'm there and looking around, the audio is coming from the right place, and people are looking at me, and I can hop around and move. Then a character suddenly materializes in my field of view, and he says: "Hey John, follow me. I want to show you around." He called from Nairobi, Africa, and I was in Palo Alto, California, but our minds were connected in China.
I was so immersed, that I am not sure, I would have left the building on fire. We were experiencing a different reality than the people surrounding us, which was very compelling. What would it be like to have breakfast with my cousins in Europe whom I haven't seen in a couple of years in a café in Paris without getting on a plane? Of course, it'd be overall better to get on the plane and be physically there. Still, sometimes we travel for different reasons and motivations. What would that be like? It was a thought-provoking experience.
Chris: For sure! All these thought experiments and ideas highlight the change we've witnessed. Large companies many times before failed to identify and respond to an emerging shift in a timely fashion. That could be reacting to the Metaverse, but it could be anything disruptive, or even revolutionary. This is all happening, even with an abundance of resources and employees possessing extensive knowledge and capabilities, not to omit a generous budget to make use of. So, John, why do you think this keeps repeating? Why do large organizations repeatedly fail to identify change early and take action?
John: Right. I think that's become a bit like a multi-decade question by now, not unlike Christensen's dilemma; the notion that a company was very successful in growing a franchise or a business, and then there's resistance to adapting as the market is evolving in a new direction. The most influential forces will always have a considerable effect on companies with significant business units, generating huge profits and paying all our paychecks. All are trucking along fine until suddenly someone steps in from a foresight group and announces that the markets are on the move and there is a huge opportunity. If you don't jump on that one now, you will miss out and regret it later. During my time, I've come to appreciate the perspectives of an executive as well.
They are getting a pitch every day from some part of the company saying “this is happening”. They have to make decisions based on either doom or gloom information with unknown and sometimes consequences that could go either way. It starts to feel like becoming a cacophony of noise from their point. If you're confronted with this sort of situation repeatedly, you can't keep reacting to everything. It becomes progressively challenging to differentiate a genuine signal from noise; while still dealing with the usual daily pressure and demands from customers, stakeholders and investors who keep pulling you back into the core business with no new ground being broken. I believe those are some elements that I think make it challenging for companies to navigate and reinvent themselves. History has shown many examples, from Kodak to Nokia to many others, that fail to embrace the change.
“It becomes progressively challenging to differentiate a genuine signal from noise.” – John Miranda
Chris: I suppose it is precisely for those reasons that Intel has a corporate foresight program, including “Trendscape” as a global early warning system for emerging signals and trends. It’s about filtering out the noise from real signals. Could you walk me through the key elements of your corporate foresight program?
John: Sure. One key element is that we're a community of contributors. That's just how we created it and pitched it to be. It's not some tiny ivory office of super-smart people locked away reading all day long. It's a contributor network of individuals from different company parts. Some involve technical aspects, others with policy and legal matters, including societal and ethical implications. The scope and breadth of that network are pretty extensive and vital. We came together a couple of times a quarter, sharing different perspectives on what we are observing. That is followed by a more formalized review that evaluates the findings, contrasting them and building cases as to why we think they're essential.
We go through that process a few times a year. In addition, we use ITONICS as a tool, among others, to validate our hypothesis. If we think something is taking off, we can tap into different resources, like primary and secondary research, to validate what is currently happening and, against that, test a particular hypothesis. If our hunch turned out to be accurate, what else could be potentially valid? Are there any other areas or things we could test to strengthen further and validate the point we are making?
The final element is partnering with executives and building on those relationships with them and other stakeholder teams across the company. Groups, like the Corporate Strategic Office that I partner with as an example and many others, aim to drive change since coming up with insights without the accompanying change is not enough at the end of the day. We have to embrace change ultimately.
Chris: It comes down to using our senses that, in turn, allow us to interpret and act upon the gained insights. Having had conversations with many companies in the recent months and years, it became transparent that it's not always as straightforward; that is especially true when you intend to start company-wide engagement. How did you get started with that? How did you engage practitioners across the company, and how did you keep up that momentum over time?
John: It all had its beginnings when many of us had been involved with the previously mentioned network. Since we brought a different kind of experience at Intel to the table, it just started to gel together. It's funny, since you'd expect a lot of initial hurdles in companies as big as Intel; there are over 100,000 of us. I believe the critical moment was when we identified within the community who demonstrated traits of thought leaders and who were intellectually curious.
They always tended to read and test ideas, coming up with a novel approach. Over time, you start to get to know each other through networking, meeting with someone who knows someone, etc. If you were not the subject-matter expert in one field, connecting and networking with your peers could lead you to one that allows you to leverage that then.
One area of managing a community is thinking about what they want to get out of the foresight program, and offering value in return. Suppose you just take the insights and run away with it; you'll probably discourage them and invite atrophy. When I come across a topic from one side of the company and know someone deeply interested in that on the other side, I would endeavor to connect with them. Suppose I come across an external resource, like a conference speaker, that I am a member of and know someone who isn't. In that case, I'll reach out and broach the topic to that person and offer them the extra seat I would have to attend. Making those small gestures to various contributors to the network helps and is a crucial component to maintain their interest and engagement.
Chris: That is a good point. Ultimately, this collaboration is kept alive by the practitioners and their consistent and continuous input to various topics. As you mentioned, networking and connecting is almost like a wheel, where a core group of people make up the central hub and then reach out to other individuals and practitioners. This back and forth in providing and receiving information is valuable and solidifies interest and long-term commitment. I would assume that implementing those insights would be the other side of that same coin, right? How do you go about that at Intel?
John: Arguably, and even talking to colleagues and fellow travelers outside of Intel, that can be the most exciting and complex area at the same time to navigate. We're all more or less seeing the same trends, where some people are a little bit ahead or better informed than others and have some unique insight. However, the implementation part, especially in large and multi-layered environments, requires a lot of thought. Identifying the stakeholders and those that ultimately make decisions, whom you are trying to influence, can be a challenge all in itself since topics vary. It depends on how you approach them with it.
Keen awareness of your influence level with the various stakeholders is essential. Do they know and trust you? What's the depth of that relationship? Are you a trusted adviser or an unknown name among many? If you don't have that strength of association, can you make somehow win them over and build it? If you don't have that, do you know who their trusted advisors are, and how can you leverage them to support you in the scope of the big picture? That way, there is a chance to be invited into their inner circle and, by proxy, introduce you to individuals you more than likely should care about.
In other instances where you are not actively soliciting someone to make decisions, how can you continue to nurture that contact? Think of executives who typically have their day filled with people asking something from them all day long with their unique requests. You would be wise to make yourself stand out as much as possible - and by extension, be someone they'll remember by the end of the day - when you are meeting up with them to propose something of value to them. That is how you start to increase your sway and influence with them down the road, which can and will open more doors for you. Make conscious efforts in building relationships, upping your credibility, and not charging in with the mindset that you're always there to convince them of something you consider essential. I just want them to decide in the line to what I think. I think that's incredibly important.
Chris: I believe that is not only valid in a business context, but generally for life as well. It's all about the concept of giving and receiving; I suppose that would be the closest summary to that great philosophy and a great mindset to cultivate. Thanks for sharing the does, but what about the don'ts? What are some of the big no-no's that someone in your role or anyone in foresight at large companies should avoid doing?
John: Without a doubt, losing trust. It takes a long time to build up trust, and it can be lost in an instance. Suppose someone shares some sensitive content, and you don't maintain and safeguard it in the way they were expecting and hoping, or someone pushes you into the lousy spotlight - and that can happen intentionally or unintentionally - you can quickly lose trust. Basically, to avoid such an undesirable outcome, ensure that you follow through on whatever you committed to, no matter how big or small. I've been in the situation where you're uncovering some red flags while getting to know someone; you might have asked them for something simple but had to remind them a week later or two because they haven't completed it. Thus, they're already losing credibility. It's, unfortunately, the judgement that if they can't even do the simple things, why should they be entrusted with bigger and therefore more involved projects? In short, follow-through and consistency are the ways to build trust.
“It takes a long time to build up trust, and it can be lost in an instance. Ensure that you follow through on whatever you committed to, no matter how big or small.”
Intel’s corporate foresight program
Chris: These are some great leadership lessons and insights in themselves! Some time ago, I read the book “High Output Management” by Andrew Grove, Intel's former chairman and CEO. It was a remarkable book, and it immersed me in the concept of managerial leverage. In short, managers should aim for as many impactful and beneficial activities as possible.
These activities may influence people to such an extent and snowball to a long-lasting shift in collective thinking and working with humans. Harmful activities could include being indecisive as a leader or simply lacking preparation as a critical participant in important meetings, thus wasting everyone's time. The message is clear; always aim for impactful and beneficial activities. John, my question to you would be, to what extent is the corporate foresight program at Intel enmeshed in the impactful and practical actions or program?
John: I think the program is heavily shaping the company's course. One such way of that program is to organize and host internal calls. I participated in recent ones with three other colleagues, but in total, we had 1,700 employees dial in on that call. Those are clear telltale signs that you're starting to affect change and culture in the company on particular and trending topics. Another way to view it is more as individual and role modelling. Prime examples that come to mind are Andy Grove and Gordon Moore and how they influenced the culture in the company when they were founding it. At that time, I had just recently graduated from school. I was lucky enough to have had a couple of quick interactions with Andy Grove and Gordon Moore. It was fascinating. That was when I used to fly from Phoenix to Santa San Jose airport. Interestingly, about a quarter of that plane was filled with Intel employees on any given morning. You would see Andy Grove boarding the plane and walking back to the economy class, followed by Gordon Moore as almost a billionaire. They were role modelling by being in it with the employees, and I know some employees that were embarrassed because they had booked first-class, and you watch Gordon Moore walk past them. When we had landed - and these are real experiences - I would see the two of them waiting at the hearse line to get their subcompact car and then drive down the road to the campus; no chauffeur, none of these private jets or helicopters. They built the company around that culture and that embodiment of role modelling.
Andy Grove was famous for getting things done by being hands-on. For instance, if you had a simple ask where a call 24 hours later was required to complete something, he would chase the person down a day later and follow up consistently. There are plenty of other cases I could bring up, but they set a great culture in our new CEO, Pat Gelsinger. He returned to Intel and has been doing a fantastic job bringing that culture back. When Pat was younger in his career, he was exposed to beneficial and formative situations that shaped his thinking as an executive. It's great to see Pat coming back and bringing some of those principles and reminding everyone of what used to be before.
Chris: That's exciting and great stories. Thanks for sharing, John. We have covered a lot in this episode and breezed through many emerging technologies and the future. We touched on dystopian and utopian scenarios, and much more. Unfortunately, we're nearing the end of this episode, but before we wrap it up, I have two more questions for you. Number one: What is coming next for you and Intel's corporate foresight program? What's the future of it, in your opinion?
John: I'm having about as much fun as I think I've ever had in my career. I feel very fortunate in this space. What I appreciate the most is, as I mentioned in the beginning, the rate of learning and interacting with really amazing people. As long as I have the opportunity to continue doing that, I don't see myself wavering from that course that I am on today. Running a foresight program, sitting in the strategy office and helping shape the company's direction as good as I can, are all motivating drivers.
For now, I'm pretty content. For the corporate foresight program, it’s about taking it to the next level. How do we engage more productively and richly with senior management? It's a lot of continuous improvement. It's adopting new tools and methods within an evolving environment to help better shape and guide our thinking. The point is that learning never ends, and that's what makes it fun.
Chris: Great to hear! Looking back at your career at Intel - this is our trademark question - what was your Innovation Rockstar moment?
John: I would say driving the sustainability topic from a product perspective was probably my most significant breakthrough at Intel. For many years, we tried to embed sustainability in the context of manufacturing. We have environmental experts, and we have to comply with stringent regulations. We've been trying to set a leadership position. Still, it was developing thinking from a product team perspective. Intel has a process where if you have a specific topic you want to draw attention to, you go through a series of tried and tested methods and hopefully see it through. If you manage that well, you'll get the CEO to listen in for 45 minutes, but you will have to make it count.
“Driving the sustainability topic from a product perspective was probably my most significant breakthrough at Intel”
I managed to clear those hurdles and landed that presentation last summer with the company's global executive staff. I presented and talked about how sustainability will become significantly more important in the ecosystem and an integral part of our product portfolio perspective. Ever since that presentation, I'm noticing enormous engagement and interaction with members of the CEO staff on this topic, an irrefutable breakthrough and very rewarding. It makes me wonder why we didn't start this sooner. Only a few people talked about sustainability in a product context; now, we have hundreds, if not over 1,000 talking about this topic.
What's next in 2022? We'll have to wait and see as more people are starting to think about what's next and what ideas to develop in the foreseeable future. If you have any thoughts,
Chris, let me know.
Chris: I will! That certainly is a fantastic Innovation Rockstar moment. I would love to hear your opinion and share some of my ideas. It was a pleasure talking to you, for now, John. Many thanks again for all these insights and the inspiring exchange. Appreciate all the aspects that we both were able to put a brief spotlight on. Hope to talk to you soon!
John: Thank you so much, Chris. As always, a pleasure. I enjoyed our conversation today. It was very thought-provoking. Thank you.
Chris: Awesome, and to everybody listening or watching, if you want to learn more about this story or get in touch, simply leave us a comment on this episode or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's it, folks. Thanks for listening and for tuning in. See you on the next episode. Take care and bye-bye.
About the authors
Dr. Christian Mühlroth is the host of the Innovation Rockstars podcast and CEO of ITONICS. John Miranda is Director of Strategy, Office Data Center, and the AI group at Intel.
The Innovation Rockstars podcast is a production of ITONICS, provider of the world’s leading Operating System for Innovation. Do you also have an eduspiring story to tell about innovation, foresight, strategy or growth?