Fostering Innovation at the Corporate Level

Question: How do you create an innovative company environment?

Swope: The way we talk about it is informed risk-taking, right.  Informed risk-taking in that culture is fundamental towards supporting innovation and [to do that] there got to be an educated population.  If you’re working on something that you don’t quite understand, the probability of making it better by messing with it is reduced.  So, just think about those two tenets for a while, a culture that supports it, and then number 2 then enough education and knowledge and teamwork to be able to go build it.  There are a very few individuals any more that can understand one of our products and [sold] them half over billion transistors.  It is hard to know what each one of them does, right.  So, there are teams of people that create this and there are bigger teams of people that try to, you know, validate them and distribute them, etc.  So if I were thinking about the third thing, it would be about building that culture of teamwork and allowing teams then be innovative. 

Question: How do you allow for experiments in innovation?

Swope: At the Intel Fellow level, the top, the very top, approximately 100 scientists and technologists that we have, we told them they’re going to have half the time to themselves and they can go work on that.  Very few of them actually take us up on that, but the offer is genuine.  Now, it means in some area that they have some expertise, all right.  We actually haven’t really faced a lot of that difficulty because our products are so incredibly complex, beautifully complex, one can argue, and because there’s so much change that goes on all the time.  So, if you are interested in the field of computing, working for Intel is like just a great place to be, right?  And they have the tendency to work in that area.  Now, we try to go off and then there’s a pretty formal process for determining in the R&D labs what technologies still hold promise and when to kind of reduce the funding in an area and when to move it forward.  So we have a lot of process, Intel is a process [storing] company.  We have a lot of processes to do that.  But, fundamentally, the idea is that you can do most of the development in the area of expertise at some form of computing, and then in the research labs themselves, a very organized process to determine which ones we continue to fund and which ones we pass on.

Question: What’s the foundation of an innovative corporate environment?

Swope:    Well, the first one I had as tenets are the culture would be first.  You have to respect that and that means it doesn’t always work.  The second one is education.  We talked about that.  See if there’s a third one.  Oh, I think the third one is, really, you have to just feel eminently wonderful about the success.  So, if you step back and say, okay, you’re allowed to fail and then people are educated.  Then, do you really celebrate those people that can move it forward and sometimes the team moves it forward and then sometimes, you know, just one person makes a difference.  And we give away the Intel Achievement Awards every year and lots of times those are teams of people where, you know, a team has done something really innovative and we give them a little bit of money but we give them a great party.  But every once in a while, there’s just one individual who stands out and it’s so clear at the corporate level that that one person moved Intel and those are really special. 

Question: How do you reward innovation?

Swope:    We do throw the party but it’s, that’s not much of it.  Let’s step back and see what innovation really is.  Innovation is you build a new product or a new service in some way that betters the product line or hopefully is solving a customer need better than before.  So, we reward that first of all.  This is be careful what you ask for.  You know, really good design engineers have the tendency to then become group leads and they can certainly move up that engineering chain.  We allow scientists and engineers to either move up into a management chain or stay on their technical leadership towards an Intel fellow.  And an Intel fellow or Intel senior fellow is the same, you know, range in the company, same grades, same salary if not more than Vice Presidents.  So there is, you know, we kind of put our money where our mouth is and we recruit, retain and reward those people that can move this technology forward in a meaningful way.  And then the second thing, which I keep trying to say, what really makes it work?  You’ve got people around you that share this culture, that want to be doing it too, that when, you know, when you call them up at night, you say, yeah, I know it’s after work, but I just got to talk to you about this.  I’m so excited. And they don’t hang up on you.  So, I think it’s that combination of respecting the individual and dealing with all the management structures and changes and challenges and results.  But then, second of all, having a culture and being able to recruit other people in the organization that share their common goals.

Question: How can the United States move forward as a center for innovation?

Swope:    There are a lot of people that would say that we have lost some of that edge and some would argue with that vehemently.  So let me just point out the data, right.  The data are that we are no longer producing the most engineers.  We are no longer producing the most amount of new companies.  We have been the technological lead in the world.  We’ve really had technical supremacy for decades and our higher education institutions still have that.  We have the best higher education system in the world.  But if we really want to remain a technological powerhouse in the next 30 years, we need to start internalizing all the scores that are coming out to explain that we are in the 20’s in math and science.  Our children are not as well educated.  They don’t have the same work ethic, whether we like it or not, that’s what the tests indicate, and I think we have to look at the systemic issues that are causing that and go after it.

Question: What’s the best way to manage creative employees?

Swope:    Enjoying them.  If you step back and you say, all right, there’s our [art].  Creative people will always give you… you’ll spend most of your time on creative people, and that means that they will be the people that you, you know, you want to most embrace sometimes and then you’ll just most want to argue with the others because it depends on where they’re going at any given moment.  But most one you should just have to enjoy and respect their creativity.  If creative people believe they are liked and respected, then they will continue to be more and more creative, and I don’t necessarily relate creativity with lack of discipline.  You can be very creative within a discipline.  So, if we’re talking about how do you deal with undisciplined creative people, then I think that’s just a matter of trying to establish a common goal.

Will Swope details the essential role that innovation plays at Intel and how he manages it effectively.

Scientists reactivate cells from 28,000-year-old woolly mammoth

"I was so moved when I saw the cells stir," said 90-year-old study co-author Akira Iritani. "I'd been hoping for this for 20 years."

Yamagata et al.
Surprising Science
  • The team managed to stimulate nucleus-like structures to perform some biological processes, but not cell division.
  • Unless better technology and DNA samples emerge in the future, it's unlikely that scientists will be able to clone a woolly mammoth.
  • Still, studying the DNA of woolly mammoths provides valuable insights into the genetic adaptations that allowed them to survive in unique environments.
Keep reading Show less

Five Hawks Down: watch the tragic migration of six Californian raptors

Tracking project establishes northern Argentina is wintering ground of Swainson's hawks

Image: @TrackingTalons / Ruland Kolen
popular
  • Watch these six dots move across the map and be moved yourself: this is a story about coming of age, discovery, hardship, death and survival.
  • Each dot is a tag attached to the talon of a Swainson's Hawk. We follow them on their very first migration, from northern California all the way down to Argentina.
  • After one year, only one is still alive.

Discovered: destination Argentina

Image: @TrackingTalons

Young Swainson's hawks were found to migrate to northern Argentina

The Buteo swainsoni is a slim, graceful hawk that nests from the Great Plains all the way to northern California.

It feeds mainly on insects, but will also prey on rodents, snakes and birds when raising their young. These learn to fly about 45 days after hatching but may remain with their parents until fall migration, building up flying skills and fat reserves.

A common sight in summer over the Prairies and the West, Swainson's hawks disappear every autumn. While it was assumed they migrated south, it was long unclear precisely where they went.

A group of researchers that has been studying raptors in northern California for over 40 years has now established exactly where young Swainson's hawks go in winter. The story of their odyssey, summarized in a 30-second clip (scroll down), is both amazing and shocking.

Harnessing the hawks

Image: @TrackingTalons, found here on imgur.

A Swainson's hawk, with tracking device.

The team harnessed six Swainson's hawks in July, as they were six weeks old and just learning to fly. The clip covers 14 months, until next August – so basically, the first year of flight.

Each harness contains a solar-powered tracker and weighs 20 grams, which represents just 3% of the bird's body weight. To minimize the burden, only females were harnessed: as with most raptors, Swainson's hawk females generally are bigger than males.

The first shock occurs just one month (or about 2.4 seconds) from the start of the clip: the first dot disappears. The first casualty. A fledgling no more than two months old, who never made it further than 20 miles from its nest.

By that time, the remaining five are well on their way, clustering around the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Swainson's hawks usually travel at around 40 mph (65 km/h) but can almost double that speed when they're stooping (i.e. dive down, especially when attacking prey).

'Migration unrest'

First year of life for six Swainson's Hawks [OC] from r/dataisbeautiful

There's a strong genetic component to migration. As usual, the Germans have nice single word to summarize this complex concept: Zugunruhe ('tsook-n-roowa'), literally: 'migration unrest' (1). It denotes the seasonal urge of migratory animals – especially birds – to get on their way. Zugunruhe exhibits especially as restless behavior around nightfall. The number of nights on which it occurs is apparently higher if the distance to be traveled is longer.

The birds may have the urge to go south, but genetics doesn't tell them the exact route. They have to find that out by trial and error. Hence the circling about by the specimens in this clip: they're getting a sense of where to find food and which direction to go. Their migratory paths will be refined by experience – if they're lucky enough to survive that long.

Each bird flies solo: their paths often strongly diverge, and if they seem to meet up occasionally, that's just an illusion: even when the dots are close together, they can still be dozens if not hundreds of miles apart.

Panama snack stop

Image: @TrackingTalons

The Central American isthmus is a major bird migration corridor

They generally follow the same route as it is the path of least resistance: follow mountain ranges, stay over land. Like most raptors, Swainson's hawks migration paths are land-based: not just so they can roost at night, but mainly to benefit from the thermals and updrafts to keep them aloft. That reduces the need to flap wings, and thus their energy spend – even though the trip will take longer that way.

As this clip demonstrates, the land-migration imperative means the Central American isthmus is a hotspot for bird migration. Indeed, Panama and Costa Rica are favorite destinations for bird watchers, when the season's right. A bit to the north, Veracruz in Mexico is another bird migration hotspot.

It's thought most hawks don't eat at all on migration. This clip shows an exception to that rule: on the way back, one bird takes an extended stopover of a couple of weeks in Panama, probably spending its time there foraging for food.

So, when they finally arrive in northern Argentina, after 6 to 8 weeks' migration, the hawks are pretty famished. Until a few decades ago, they fed on locusts. For their own reasons, local farmers have been getting rid of those. The hawks now concentrate on grasshoppers, and basically anything else that's edible.

For first-time visitors, finding what they need is not easy. Three of the five dots go dark. These birds probably died from starvation. But two birds thrive: they roam the region until winter rears its head in South America, and it's time to head back north again, where summer is getting under way.

Both dots make it back across the border, but unfortunately, right at the end of the clip, one of the surviving two birds expires.

Harsh, but not unusual

Image: @TrackingTalons, found here on imgur.

This old lady is 27 years old, but still nesting.

While a one-in-six survival rate may seem alarmingly harsh, it's not that unusual. First-year mortality for Swainson's Hawks is between 50% and 80%. Disease, starvation, predators and power lines – to name just a few common causes of death - take out a big number.

Only 10% to 15% of the young 'uns make it past their third or fourth year into adulthood, but from then on, annual survival rates are much better: around 90%. Adult Swainson's Hawks can expect to live into their low teens. There's one documented example of a female Swainson's Hawk in the wild who was at least 27 years old (and still nesting!)

The Californian population of Swainson's Hawks plummeted by about 90% at the end of last century but is now again increasing well. The monitoring project that produced this clip has been going for about four decades but is seeing its funding dry up. Check them out and consider supporting them (see details below).

Image: Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Migration trajectory of B95, the 'Moonbird'.

Not all migrating birds shun the ocean. Here's an incredible map of an incredible migration path that's even longer than that of the Swainson's hawks.

In February 1995, a red knot (Calidris canutus rufa) in Tierra del Fuego (southern Argentina) was banded with the tag B95. That particular bird, likely born in 1993, was recaptured at least three times and resighted as recently as May 2014, in the Canadian Arctic.

B95 is more commonly known as 'Moonbird', because the length of its annual migration (app. 20,000 miles; 32,000 km) combined with its extreme longevity (if still alive, it's 25-26 years old now) means its total lifetime flight exceeds the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

As many other shorebirds do, the red knot takes the Atlantic Flyway hugging the coastline and crossing to South America via the ocean.

B95 has become the poster bird of conservationists in both North and South America. A book titled Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 (2012) received numerous awards, B95 has a statue in Mispillion Harbor on Delaware Bay and the City of Rio Grande on Tierra del Fuego has proclaimed B95 its natural ambassador.

Perhaps one day the nameless Swainson's Hawks in this clip, fallen in service of their ancestral instincts – against the odds of human increasing interference – will receive a similar honor.

Migration clip found here at the DataIsBeautiful subreddit. Read through the comments to learn a lot more about Swainson's Hawks, and raptors in general.

Check out the California raptor tracking programme 'Tracking Talons' on Twitter at @TrackingTalons, on their Facebook page, and on their website.

Strange Maps #965

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

(1) 'Zug' is a wonderfully polyvalent German word. It can mean: a train, a chess move, a characteristic, a stroke, a draft (of a plan), a gulp (of air), a drag (from a cigarette), a swig (from a bottle), and more.

Trusting your instincts is lazy: Poker pro Liv Boeree on Big Think Edge

International poker champion Liv Boeree teaches decision-making for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to make decisions with the clarity of a World Series Poker Champion.
  • Liv Boeree teaches analytical thinking for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less