In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Kapil Kane, Director of Innovation at Intel China and co-founder of GrowthX- an award-winning corporate innovation accelerator. Kapil Kane shares lessons from his experience at the intersection of technology and innovation working for Apple and Intel. Kapil Kane also shared lessons learned and how teams and organizations of all sizes can encourage innovation and intrapreneurship.
-Kapil Kane's start in design and innovation
-The importance of not being afraid of failures
-Organizational leadership and innovation lessons learned first as an intern and then as a design lead at Apple
-Kapil Kane on why he left Apple to work for Intel and the differences in the two organizations' cultures and practices
-How Patrick Gelsinger changed the trajectory of Intel and brought the Grovian culture back to the organization, as well as reinstituting OKRs (Objectives & Key Results)
-Kapil Kane on co-founding and running GrowthX in China
-How organizations can encourage greater intrapreneurship and innovation
-Kapil Kane's perspectives on the different leadership and managerial approaches between Chinese and American executives
John Rossman (Listen to John Rossman’s episode on Partnering Leadership)
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More information and resources are available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:
Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Kapil Kane. Kapil is co-founder and head of Intel's growth X, which is an award-winning corporate innovation accelerator. He is an innovator with deep expertise in corporate innovation, entrepreneurship, business acceleration and design thinking. For more than 20 years, Kapil has helped design and launch world class products and businesses at the intersection of arts design and technology. Kapil is also the creator of the first multitouch screen at apple, where he also went on to lead product design on iPod, MacBook, MacBook Air, iMac, and eventually the iPad. Kapil has been featured at Ted world economic forum, CES, Stanford, and MIT.
I really enjoy this conversation with Kapil, learning about innovation at apple and Intel, and most specifically how we can all use some of the same insights and practices for our teams and organizations, regardless of the size of the organization. I'm sure you will also enjoy the conversation and learn a lot from Kapil.
I also enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments coming. email@example.com There's also a microphone icon on partnering leadership.com. Really enjoy getting those voice messages. Don't forget to follow the podcast. Tuesday conversations with magnificent change makers from the greater Washington DC DMV region and Thursday conversations with brilliant global thought leaders.
Now, here is my conversation with Kapil Kane
Mahan: Kapil Kane welcome to partnering leadership. I am thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.
Kapil: Thanks for having me on your show Mahan
Mahan: Really excited. Can't wait to talk a little bit about your experience at Intel running growth X, your experience in China, but first would love to start out Kapil with your upbringing and how it impacted who you've become.
Kapil: I grew up in the smallest province of India called Goa. Usually for like, the tourists are familiar with this place. You don't associate Goa with people who are studious or people who want to leave that place and go somewhere else. And so it's quite fascinating.
I never wanted to leave Goa. I had my plans. I wanted to become an engineer and then work with my dad in his hardware store. That's what I wanted to do. And I used to joke that there's this Indian Institute of technologies and they're all out of Goa, but there was one school very close to Goa, just overnight bus journey.
And I always said that if I get into that school, then and only then I will leave Goa and it so happened that I scored really well in the 12th. I think it's the secondary and I got into their school and I had no choice, but to leave Goa and from then on I never came back.
Mahan: Now Goa is one of those places that as you said, is known to a lot of tourists and is sort of the Santa Monica, California, beautiful pictures of beaches. You left those beaches for the Institute, but then what brought you here to the states?
Kapil: Ah, so when I went into my undergrad school, it was a National Institute of Technology. And so there were people from all over India and they all had dreams of, Hey, I want to go to MIT after I graduate and this and that and that's where I, found out there's a school called Stanford and they are really good with design and I said, okay, I want to go there.
I used to play a lot of sports in my undergrad. I played cricket, football, volleyball, badminton, chess. And so I had no time to actually study for this graduate record examination. So I thought, okay, I'll work for a couple of years and then I'll go apply to schools.
But it happened that my first job out of school, I worked at TATA, and TATA had a joint venture with this company in the US called Johnson Controls and six months working in India, they send me off to US and that's how I ended up in the US in Michigan where we were designing car interiors and like I always wanted to do while I was working there I pass my GRE and applied to a bunch of schools. And one of the schools that accepted me was Stanford. And then I moved from the Midwest to the west coast and then from then on, I went to apple and finally I found my way back in Asia, in Shanghai, about 15 years ago.
Mahan: I would love to dig a little bit deeper in your car design experience, because an element of design and innovation has run through your career Kapil and then lessons from apple, what was the experience in designing interior of cars, that's one of those things that impacts the experience of people that drive cars or sit in cars, but we don't necessarily reflect on it. What was that experience like for you?
Kapil: I think one of the very first designs I did was the seat that Chrysler PT cruiser. There is the structural frames and there is foam and cushions. And I remember, I think I was doing the cushions there like lots of cross sections you need to make and then need to create some smooth surfaces.
And then on, I design I think it was like something knee, like if the car ends up in a crash, the stuff that your knees hit, that portion, I forgot what it's called. And it had to be designed in a way. It's a plastic design and it needs to absorb shock. And while I was designing that, I learned a lot about how to design plastic parts.
And it's funny that when I left my interior design the car design job, and I went to Stanford. And when I was interviewing for my very first internship and there were only two companies that were onboarding non-citizens at that time. And I think because there was a big market crash in 2000.
This was 2002 and apple that the people who were on campus, they, at that time, all the Mac there was made with plastic. And I had experience in designing plastic and they asked me certain questions about How the part was designed and , what are some of the mistakes in the design and how would you do it differently?
And I was just able to answer this question because I was experiencing in designing this plastic part and they were really amazed that how come this guy know all these things. And I, that's how I got the internship there. And before that job actually, I had no idea what apple did. Actually I did because I used to work on the Macs.
But I knew like from working on Macs in the lab, that they were really cool design company. But beyond that, I did not know much about apple, but I did know about how to design plastic parts. And I think that's what ended me there. So it's just bunch of coincidences that landed me at apple.
Mahan: That's great to hear now. I wonder what did your parents think of you giving up your education at Stanford having gotten into the PhD program to go pursue a career at what was a, even back then a legendary company.
Kapil: I did two internships before I really made this decision that I don't want to pursue PhD and I want to work at apple. I had that real life experience. It was not really snap decision but I had thought through it. I think my parents were fine with it. They came for my graduation. The reasoning I gave is that. The amount of stuff I learned in three months, internship during my summer was much more than I did during the rest of the nine months on campus.
I did it twice and I think I was convinced that I would learn more actually getting my hands dirty and in a company that really allows you to go explore things, to do lots of experience, to learn the pace of learning was super, super fast. And also it happened at what I was working on was also quite revolutionary.
At that time I was working on the touchscreen and the state of the art at that time was something like taking a stylus and poking at the screens one poke at a time. And what we were creating was this multi-touch screen, where you could glide 10 fingers on the glass, just completely mind blowing. And I thought, I really want to work on this cool thing rather than do research in the lab.
Mahan: In working on that cool thing and that definitely was revolutionary Kapil, I would love to understand a little bit more about the culture at apple, where you said you had the opportunity and the potential to experiment and to see things. So can you walk through that experience on working on the touch screen and the cultural elements that enabled you and the team to experiment, to discover things, to fail in some fronts that made the culture of apple unique.
Kapil: One of the things was, Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive, so Jonathan I've is the industrial designer, he was like Steve's soulmate and they gave us the vision and our Job, I was a product design engineer. So basically think of a mechanical engineering discipline.
And our job was to turn that vision into reality and whatever it takes to get there. So we were never discouraged from doing anything. We were just told, don't say you can't do it or it cannot be done or it's difficult. Just go and do it. And just show that you failed at something rather than you just before and telling it won't work. And as long as you can show that I have this question, I wanted to find answer to this. You would be given resources that you needed. So I'll give a very simple example. It's even before touch screen, when I was an intern, I had just come in as an intern my job was to do failure analysis on the stuff that comes back from the field.
So whenever you launch a new product in the early days, there's lots of failures, because it's called that infant mortality. And my job was to analyze those failures and find out wh
ether it's a problem with the design or it's the quality issue or it's like a manufacturing issue.
And I was working on one of such failure analysis and I wanted to look at how something was built on the production line. And at this time we used to manufacture stuff in Taiwan and I said Hey, can we find someone there to this.
And my manager was like why don't you just jump on the plane, go there and do it for yourself. that was the thing. So So it was so easy for you to just like as long as you are passionate about finding an answer, it's seeking the truth, no one comes in your way.
And so I was just able to hop on a plane, go there for a week and come back. And I was surprised that I was sitting in a business class as an intern and flying around the globe and coming back just to find that truth, one truth that I was really looking for. And the second time I remember I also happened to be in Taiwan that was doing my second internship and there was a product we were about to ship. That means we start from like a prototype build design, build engineering verification build, and finally the production verification.
And at the production verification stage, you manufacture like thousands and thousands. And if you find a design problem at that time it's all hell breaks loose. And we had this very problematic design. It was a PowerBook. A 12 inch PowerBook. I was there for some other thing.
And the guy who was leading that project had an emergency and had to go back to the US. So as an intern, they just put me in charge of that project often saying Hey, you are here in Taiwan. We want you to be there. You just feel like so much of responsibility and you feel people trusting you.
That's like that's the best someone can do to you as an employer. Putting trust in you that, Hey, you can do it. You may be an intern, but I trust you to do this. And of course they will support you. So that was another instance of you feeling empowered.
You never thought you were small or big, and that kept going on. So when we are designing touch screen it was like we had acquired a startup who was doing this multitask screen. And then bunch of us got together and we thought , what can we do with this?
And again, at that time I was an intern. Like the product design manager, he said Hey you start designing this touch screen which we could productize. And then there's another intern. He was a product reliability guy and his job was to break my designs. So we spent the entire summer designing thing. Yeah, protyping thing and that guy breaking it so he was just kept going and going. And finally, we came up with a design that we could actually turn into a tablet and we then showed it to Steve. And it was like a, quite a big thing. It's like 12 inch screen, and Steve was like, it's just too big.
We should be able to fit in the pocket. So then we went back to the drawing board and this is at the time when I dropped out of school and joined full time. And we went from 12 inch to seven inch and then it was like, it's too small. Tablet should have an experience of like typing as a full keyboard.
So we went back to 10 and we kept doing this in two years just passed by for us, like trying to perfect a design and we had really good tablet hardware design. It was perfect. We had bunch of apps, we had maps, we had a DJ turntable. And then certainly we got information that we should stop working on the tablet.
This project is gone, it's canceled. And we had to give all the work to this other team which we didn't know what they were doing. But a year later we found out what exactly happened is that, team was the phone team and they were struggling with the user interface and they saw what we did on the tablet.
And Steve thought that user interface was the best for the phone. So the iPhone was launched with the work we had done on the touch screen. Of course there were more attritions but it tells you that it's everyone wants to build great things. They want to build great products.
And they also will kill something that's doesn't meet the standards. And they wouldn't launch something just because you spend so much money on it and you spend so much time on it. So I think was an amazing place for a young engineer. like kid in a what is it called? Candy store you could work on so many cool things.
Mahan: What incredible stories and experience Kapil showing the kind of environment that helps people pursue their passion that is aligned with what the organization wants to create the innovation, to test things, to do things. Even the example you gave of flying to Taiwan as an intern.
I know organizations that are much smaller where mid-level executives would have to go through levels of approvals before something like that.
So there is a lot of great systems in what you mentioned, what I wonder though, within this discovery, within this self initiative, what were the boundaries or bumpers to keep everyone aligned. You pursued what excited you and what interested you, you had been hired because you showed potential, but what were the bumpers, if any, in addition to the vision that had been said by Steve.
Kapil: To be very honest, I did not see too many boundaries. As long as you spoke with data. We used to say this to say, we trust in God, everyone else, please bring data. And of course when you have data, when you analysis you can justify doing what you're doing.
The moment, you're not able to justify what you're doing. You will not be welcome to do that anymore. So at the end of the day is the data that spoke end of the day. It's the proof is in the pudding, as I say. So we had to build things , we never did powerPoint engineering.
We actually build stuff. We actually made stuff. We actually measured stuff. We did design experiments. That means let's say even for a small thing what should be the, diameter of this camera hole, we would make different samples of different sizes.
If we were to pick this color blue color, we would make samples that are like different shades of blue. We would make a lot of samples, which are. At the higher limit, as well as the lower limit. So everything, was measured. There's data can be quantified, can be defined. And we used to call specs like specifications and we would spec the hell out of every single thing so that there is no loophole in what supplier gives to you.
So I think we had that kind of diligence in doing things and when you go by data, when you have everything when you have something to show for what you're doing, it's very difficult to go off on this different things that are not really the core of what you are trying to achieve.
Having said that, I also worked in the area where we used to do architecture. This is before the design and there you are much more leeway in what you're doing because you work on things that maybe nobody else even know about. But in general, when executing projects, as long as you can show that through your data, through your measurements, through your analysis it makes sense. Yes. You get support and moment, it doesn't make sense. You won't get support.
Mahan: With that experience at a certain point, you then decided to leave Apple to go to Intel. What got you to make that decision Kapil
Kapil: I had started at Apple to work on the touch screen. So with the vision in mind that we were making a tablet and eight years later we finally made that tablet. And at that time I was already in China and as luck would have it, I was asked to lead the product design. Of the very first iPad and the second one as well.
So we had two leads, one in co nine, one in China and worked out very well. So we could work around the clock. And after doing that iPad, It was Life has come full circle. That's one thing, second thing was, I was getting really good at building shiny toys for the fortunate of us in this world.
And I think it was time to do something more, something different. And around this time Intel, they had this thing called classmate PC, which was based on one laptop per child. I'm not sure if you heard about one laptop per child.
It was this concept that came out of MIT's media lab designed by Nicholas Negroponte. The director at the media lab which was an affordable, personal computer for emerging markets. Africa, Latin America the vision was to create a hundred dollars. Laptop. But they were not able to realize that, but Intel took inspiration from that and created something called classmate PC, which was like a purpose built netbook.
They used to call it netbook. Basic laptop where you can access internet and do some simple things for students. And when the iPad came out. Even the kids in this emerging countries, they said, we want a tablet. We don't want a laptop. So Intel wanted to design the tablet version of their classmate PC.
And I had this opportunity to lead that whole thing, not just the mechanical design, but electrical design software services, apps that go on it. So that's the reason I came to Intel to design the tablet version of the classroom PC. That was how I ended up at, intel
Mahan: That's incredible having achieved as much in creating and working on the touch screen, then eventual introduction of the iPad, which was transformative in the way people consume and interact with information all around the world. Your desire for impact on people and purpose pulled you to Intel. So you can have an impact beyond just the sub segment of society around the globe.
Now, Intel Kapil is the organization that Andy Grove, the famous Silicon valley CEO led for many years, Andy Grove was, in my view, one of the biggest management thinkers of at least the latter half of 20th century, introduced a lot of concepts most especially what became known and is known as OKRs Objectives and Key Results. A lot of organizations work on those. And that's a key part of what I do with clients. So what was that experience like going from apple to Intel.
Kapil: Oh it was a big change because as soon as I started designing the tablet. I had to answer the questions that I had never asked myself. What's the bomb cost of this? I'm like, what is a bomb cost? I don't know. There should be someone else in the organization that should be calculating the cost. Not me my job is designing.
Mahan: What is a bomb cost?
Kapil: The bomb cost is bill of materials. So when you build, let's see your iPhone or a tablet, there are a bunch of parts that go inside of it and how much each of those things cost. So you add that up to come up with a bomb cost of how much it would be. So for an for an iPad that excels at $500, your bomb cost might be $200 or 150, and then there's something called manufacturing value add that you pay to the supplier to manufacture it and then mark up markup and finally it becomes 400. But when I used to design, like all these things at apple, I just used to focus on doing a good design and it never occurred to me that someone has to pay for this.
So every time I tried to design something, I started to suggest something. I would always have to make this new analysis, like what's the bomb cost, what's return on investment of this, cost saving. And I was very depressed was like they think so much about the money, but then I realized that we designed this and then people like HP, Dell, Lenovo, they pick up their design and they ask the same questions. How much is this going to cost? Can it be made cheaper? So then I realized that this the whole another skill of making things in an economical way. And that's also part of sustainability,
I think if you have all the resources given to you, you can design the best thing. But here you are to be constrained. You need to think of there's a price sensitive segment. These are like normal consumers and that's a whole different kind of learning for me. I was almost depressed for the first couple of years at Intel.
But then I took it as a learning opportunity. I learned a lot about how motherboard works. And this was another learning experience for me. It was like me going to school again and getting another masters. And this time in electrical engineering rather than mechanical engineering.
So I think it all worked out, but that was my initial shock saying people care about how much things cost, which I didn't know before.
Mahan: That's great because that adds that business element. That is also an essential part of it most, especially when you are looking to make products accessible to a wider segment of the world population. now. Patrick Gelsinger became the CEO of Intel. In 2021 before him, my understanding Kapil is Intel was not doing as well.
And wasn't seen as innovative and wasn't seen as progressive in a lot of different regards. What was going on then? And what has Patrick changed, which has contributed to Intel again, being seen as having gone through a turnaround to become more innovative an organization.
Kapil: I think Intel not being competitive, it started actually when I was at apple and I remember this very well when I was designing this tablet, that I mentioned we had to sign a special NDA and we had to work behind black curtains to work on this device. And that device was based on an Intel CPU and we were making the tablet based on Intel CPU. And I remember very well that when we used to turn it on, it used to run very hot. It would burn your laps if you put it on your lap. And at that time there was another project, a secret project was phone, and we were also exploring Intel CPU for that.
And it became very clear that we could not use an Intel CPU in the current form on any of these tablets or phones. And we had to do something completely different. We did not need high performance. What we needed was very low power CPUs, and that's when Steve jobs went to Intel, them CEO, Paul Otellini, and said Hey, we would like you to make chips for us for phone. And these are the specifications and this is how much we'll pay. And these other volumes, and they did the calculations and said, there's no way you can steal so many off these phones and we cannot make these chips sorry. I think that's where we started losing things. At that time , I was at apple and I was like, okay, we were working on this Intel thing.
How come now? We need to like, do something different at that time. I didn't realize that but now I know that was the moment that was really the turning point because the way Intel thought of developing processors is make it more powerful. From one generation to next generation, we had this tick-tock.
So tick is, you make the architecture better. Tock is you make the process better. So with these two things, you keep packing more and more semiconductor make your chip powerful every generation of our generation, the famous morse law. And we still kept doing that, but then there was this whole, another world that was valuing low power, good enough performance and battery life. And we missed that completely. That's how we lost the new wave of smartphone and then tablets. And then you came IOT that even smaller, even more power efficient chips.
And we were still on that other trajectory. So that's what really happened is that we went with very analytical mind than tech and the visionary thinking that Hey, this is going to be the next thing. Let's go do it. Let's build it. Let's take risk.
I think that's where we faltered. And we were on that path for a long time until Pat came back. And the way Pat is able to turn this company around is he is a geek at heart he has this grow in, he brought the Grovian culture back to Intel. So not only that he took all the major decisions.
For example, getting back into Foundry services, that means manufacturing competitors, products in our factories. Getting our products manufactured and competitors factories and so these are all the bold decisions he made. And he also brought the OKRs back, which we had lost in between.
We were managing by some different principles over the years. In fact this year is the 2022 is the first phase of actually managing by OKRs at Intel after a long time. So all these things, I think people are like energized and charged and they really believe in pat and it's not just him coming back before that he was the CEO of VMware a year before joining Intel, he was what the, best CEO.
In the US he actually got really good at being a CEO and then he came to Intel. So it was like a great blessing for us that he came back.
Mahan: That's incredible to hear Kapil one in that it takes a certain vision and understanding of the marketplace that goes beyond just the specifications that a lot of times organizations focus in on Pat brought some of that vision and understanding of the marketplace back. And the other part of it is I was surprised to hear that Intel where Andy Grove had pioneered objectives and key results had moved away from OKRs.
Sometimes organizations when something is working really well after a while they forget it and that's part of the reason that they flounder. So it's great that Pat has brought that back to the organization also.
Now Kapil you also helped co-found and you run growth X in China. What is growth X and how does it support Intel and its innovation?
Kapil: Intel has this great culture of innovation in a sense that how Google has this 15% time off for employees to work on their passion project. So we have the similar culture. When I used to manage big engineering teams, I would give people 10 to 20% of their time to do things that they believe is right for Intel to work on or explore.
So a lot of innovations are created within our labs, within our teams at Intel. And what we saw was that there were really cool demos that we see around in our labs, but we don't see them turning into something commercial. And so, that's the question we're trying to address.
And I saw the rise of startup accelerators, like Y Combinator, China had its own China accelerator, like 500 startups. And I happened to meet the managing partner at the China accelerator and try to understand how his accelerator work. And this was also very by accident.
I happened to be at some round table because I had this innovation in my title and I happened to meet him and I was like, If this is how a startup accelerator works, maybe this is what I can replicate inside of Intel to turn this technical innovations into commercial viable business propositions.
So growth X was founded to help our innovators put a business case on top of the technical innovation. And not just put a business case, validate it and go to market with it. That's basically what growth X is basically We do two batches a year, each batch, we bring five to six promising projects in we run them like startups.
That means we focus on the business side of things. Each batch will have eight sprints. These are business. Sprints will start from business model canvas, value proposition, we look at validation roadmaps, how to build MVPs, how to do tests. We do market research hackathons.
We will do financial modeling, we business case, and finally pitch it. And during this process, it's like last four months for each batch. The end of it is a valued business case that we bring back to the business unit to then take it to the market. Or sometimes we'll directly work with sales and marketing teams saying This is what we have done so far. We have validated the market need. We have built the proof of concept. We made data pilot with the customer. You give us couple more million dollars and we can bring in 50 million over next two, three years. So that's the general idea of what we do at growth X it's very much focused on turning technical breakthroughs into results for us.
Mahan: You've had. A lot of success, both winning awards and significant revenues over 400 million dollars worth of revenues contributed. What I wonder though, is I know you've also introduced and done entrepreneurship programs. What are some of the lessons Kapil you believe other organizations can learn in encouraging entrepreneurship within the organization. So they continually innovate and continually evolve.
Kapil: One of the things I did not mention about the results of running growthX is impact on our people. So what we saw we tracked. The employees have been through our accelerator for two years. Actually not “we”, our HR because we can't go into those HRS books.
So we got HR to track progress of the employees who have been through the accelerator and we track for two years. And what we found is based on their grade levels, they are anywhere between one and a half to five times faster at their career progression than their peers. So what it means it could mean one of two things.
One is that if we enable them, empower them encourage them, give them the skills, the tools they become better at innovating, they grow and then they climb the career ladder. That's one thing, a second thing. What it means is that having a program like this attracts the best talent you have within the company.
So over the past six years, we had 200 of our employees go through this program and on average, they are anywhere from one and a half to five times. I wouldn't say they haven't accelerated a career so what it does is the two things, one is it keeps good talent encouraged and engaged.
That's one thing. It also, upscales your employees. And if you need to run a new initiative where you really need that creative talent, you know exactly who to go to. So those are the other things and if you, the question, I don't think I answered your question now, what would you tell those who want about entrepreneurship?
Actually, I did a TEDx talk on exactly the same topic. Four or five years ago. What I was saying is whether you like it or not, that is going to be the future because you see, as the millennials enter, our workforce. And I think there are, three fourth or two thirds of workforce will be millennials, , even just in the US by 2030, by the end of this decade And millennials don't like to be told what they do. They like to do things that they believe in. They need a sense of purpose in what they do. So you will have to bring in those entrepreneurial platforms in your organization if you want to keep these guys engaged.
That's one thing. The second thing is, if you don't give entrepreneurship a chance and if you always think I'm going to do everything top down from the strategy or from the boardroom, you may miss the next thing. Someone will come and totally wipe you out even before you realize it.
I think those are the two reasons organizations should definitely start looking at entrepreneurship. I know a lot of organizations in the name of digital transformation, go work with startups and they feel that somehow they have become innovative to, but unless you really change your own people, You empower your own people, you upscale your own people. You will not become innovative just by working with the startup . So I think fundamentally, organizations have to look at entrepreneurship and in the end it's supporting your own employees it's should be a second nature.
I don't say give them everything, but at least give them a platform where they can voice, give them some small resources to tinker with their ideas because many a times, once you give them the resources. You realize that, okay, maybe this idea is not good, but you at least feel satisfied that Hey, someone gave me something to move my idea forward rather than just straight away saying no.
That's why I do believe that entrepreneurship should be definitely considered amongst everything else you guys are trying.
[00:37:28] Mahan: I really believe that is, as you say, Kapil the future of where work is headed and the most successful organizations will be able to have those kinds of cultures where. People within the organization feel like entrepreneurs that can initiate on behalf of an aligned organization. What I wonder is how can smaller organizations also take advantage of these insights. So organizations that don't have the scale to have an accelerator per se, how can they use these insights to provide opportunities for that entrepreneurship within a smaller team and organization?
Kapil: One thing I have realized is you don't need big budgets to test whether your idea is going to work or not. There's this concept of build measure, learn doing a lean startup, instead of building something you build a mockup, you build surveys.
You can do physical mockups, digital mockups and you get validated learning from the market. Once you get into that habit, Then you don't need to make big business plans. You just need to make those small tests and show your superiors or peers that this idea has legs.
So that's from the employees standpoint from the management standpoint, you don't need to set aside millions of dollars. You can set aside thousands of dollars because ideas are dime a dozen. Anyone can come up with ideas and complain that no one listened to my idea, but if I give you $500, you could actually do something with that $500 to take your idea forward.
Being small, not having big budget, shouldn't be an excuse not to try your ideas, so that's where you can start. Another thing is that get small wins. You can aim for the moon but at least to create something that's tangible, you can show that this is what I've done and then people will start believing in you and then you can go slow and slow.
So innovation usually looks like a big flash, but it's a lot of small steps that no one sees that actually makes that innovation.
Mahan: I love that Kapil when I had a conversation with John Rossman who has written the series of books on Amazon way and had launched successfully the Amazon marketplace. Which now is more than 50% of their revenues. He says something very similar with respect to a lot of what we see as innovation, including at Amazon.
Now, in many instances when you get a package especially here in the US, get it delivered within a day. And even in returning the package, before it used to be really cumbersome. Now I just go to the local UPS store and drop it off. What he talks about is every one of those steps took a little while and reduced friction a tiny bit.
When you look at it, it's big innovation in reality, it's been little steps that dial moving up. So that's a key part of innovation. And one of the things I want to underline also is that what you mentioned is not only the case with products, because I know many of the listeners are in financial services in consulting companies, in healthcare organizations.
There are opportunities to allow people the time, flexibility, and the resources to test and experiment and run with their ideas. This is not only coming up with products.
Mahan: Kapil the other unique thing that you have going for you is that you grew up in India, you worked here in the US and have worked for a couple of different US companies then transitioned over to China and have been in China in Shanghai for the past 15 years. I wonder when you look at business approaches, how do the Chinese companies and executives approach business differently than the Americans?
Kapil: Here they move much faster. They'll say let's just do it and see what happens. That's the approach. Let's say, when I used to be at apple and I would go to the vendor and I would show can you make this? They might look at this and they might initially think it's too difficult, but they'll find a way to get it done. If they couldn't do it, they would know someone who could do it, they would get it manufactured from him and give it to you. They wouldn't say I'm not going to do it. So that's one thing it's this spirit that they'll find ways to get things done and let's just do it and see what happens. So that's big difference I see.
Whereas in the US people would think, my specialty is this. This is where I'm going to stay and I'm gonna be the best in making. And I'm sorry, I can't do this for you. Here's someone else who can do it. So I think that's one big difference. I saw between the US and China when I first came here and it still exists even now , like right now we have this lockdown in Shanghai. My wife has turned into a group on leader where she buys things on bulk for the whole neighborhood and not just our neighborhood but everyone across Shanghai. And that's the only way right now people in Shanghai and lockdown can buy basic necessities like vegetables, rice, all these eCommerce platforms are not able to deliver.
So you just had to buy in bulk and then distribute in your compounds. , So people they're very enterprising and they're willing to work hard whenever opportunities present themself. And they're very willing to pivot from completely different models into different industries and reinvent themselves time and again.
[00:43:38] Mahan: I find that,having traveled to China quite a bit Kapil I saw some of what you talk about, but I would imagine most of my listeners and many of the American executives I've interacted with over the years get shocked when they hear your answer, that they move faster. Because in many instances, The American companies and executives believe Americans move fastest, but that is something that China has going for it.
Now, the other thing you mentioned is the lockdowns that have been going on in Shanghai. When we started the conversation, you had a huge smile on your face Kapil because you had a slice of pizza.
Kapil: Yeah. first time, in 45 days I had a slice of pizza. So that's why I'm super happy because usually I eat a very low carb diet. So every weekend is when I have my pizza and I have not been able to have it. And that's the happiest moment in my week is to have a pizza.
And today our neighbor was able to get a pizza and he gave me a couple of slices. So I was really happy. I had it just before our conversation started.
Mahan: So why haven't you been able to get a pizza?
Kapil: Oh, because right now the only thing kind of things you can order online are vegetables, rice, cooking oil, fruits. That too, is if you're lucky there are instances you can buy specialty things like burgers and stuff, but then you need to buy it at bulk like hundred orders, 200 orders.
So someone has to take the initiative to organize for the whole community. And I think my neighbor did that for the community. Then he gave me a few slices. I haven't been able to have chocolates. I ran out of wine. You take things for granted when things are fine and things can change in a moment.
So from having a very normal life, suddenly your community gets locked down. You can't go out, things can't come in and you just had to ration every single thing. So we've been very careful what we consume this is how it must have been for people going through depression, people in the Warton countries and you start appreciating that.
Mahan: It is really important Kapil for all of us to appreciate and be grateful for the smallest things that we have. We take a bite out of the pizza uh, that by itself, Is something we need to appreciate. I wonder Kapil over the years, as you have had this great experience, both at apple and Intel, having operated in different cultures and developing the leadership capabilities of people that by itself, Is something we need to appreciate.
I wonder Kapil over the years, as you have had this great experience at Intel, the entrepreneurship capabilities. I know you've done TEDx talks leadership programs. Are there any leadership resources or practices you typically find yourself recommending to others?
Kapil: I'm not a big scholar of management books, but two books on innovation that I recommend the lean startup, which is very popular, but for the corporate there's another book called The Lean Enterprise. It talks about lean startup from the, viewpoint of the corporate, it's written by a friend of mine called Trevor Owens and OB Fernandez.
That's a good book. It's like The Lean Enterprise, but for the startups. Of course if you think of entrepreneurship, Zero to One by Peter Thiel hard things about hard things is also a good resource for that. And then. To understand in the end, leadership is about understanding human psychology.
It helped me to read Yuval Noah Hararis books like Sapiens and Homo Deus as well. And another book really that really helped me to understand people is Man Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. It's a pretty dark book, but it really understands what drives people, like why do people do anything?
And I really like to read autobiographies like from Elon Musk, the things stick with you when you read people's stories. I feel very bored when I read or listen to books, which are things like thinking fast thinking slow there's too much theory.
So I think biographies has really helped me internalize things and things subconsciously sit inside of you and automatically the way you make decisions, they change . There is no chart or framework that I need to use, it just comes to you.
And other thing is I do a lot of spiritual reading as well. I do meditate. One of the books, like autobiography for Yogi, that was the book Steve Jobs read every summer. Every summer he read that book. He actually had that book be given to people who showed up for his funeral.
So , it had that much influence. I read that book a few times as well. And definitely I listened to podcast Tim Ferris is a great, a podcast I love because you see so many different people on that podcast and you learn so many different things from so many different people, their daily routines that's what I really enjoy doing .
Mahan: I love those recommendations many of them I have read, And some new ones that I need to read. So I appreciate you sharing some of those appeal now for the audience to find out more about you or connect with you, how best would you recommend for them to do that?
Kapil: I think LinkedIn the other platforms like WeChat and stuff, it only works here. So I think LinkedIn is the best place to find me. Just say hi and I'll reply to you.
Mahan: I really appreciate the conversation Kapil when I asked you for leadership practices and resources, you first mentioned that you are not big into reading. Actually you are not big into reading books that are titled for leaders or leadership. You read a lot, you practice leadership a lot. You have great experience, and I appreciate you taking the time to share some of your thoughts and perspectives with respect to leadership, with the partnering leadership community. Thank you so much. Kapil Kane
Kapil: thanks for having me on the show. I really enjoyed It