Interesting Insight Tucked in a Discussion of Corporate Labs

August 21, 2020

The Death Of Corporate Research Labs” is an interesting essay. I found the references to Bell Labs fascinating. My team and I performed some small work for Bell Labs which then morphed into Bell Communication Research. Earlier I had done small work for the old Ma Bell, and it was a person from that company who submitted my name for an ASIS Award.

The write up points out that corporate research and development laboratories became a thing as a result of anti-trust pressures decades ago. Today corporate R&D is mostly a memory. Shifty eyed bean counters and Teflon coated MBAs know when to dump a cost center which does not contribute to the bottom line every 12 weeks.

The essay contains a brilliant observation. I circled this in red:

A surprising implication of this analysis is that the mismanagement of leading firms and their labs can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. The comparison between Fairchild and Texas Instruments is instructive. Texas Instruments was much better managed than Fairchild but also spawned far fewer spin-offs. Silicon Valley prospered as a technology hub, while the cluster of Dallas-Fort Worth semiconductor companies near Texas Instruments, albeit important, is much less economically significant.

Innovation is a result of lousy management.

I have to think about that because many of the high tech companies are not in my opinion well managed. Profitable? Yes. Well managed. Nope.

That raises the question:

If we accept my hypothesis that Silicon Valley high tech anti trust targets are not well managed, why are many of these firms starved for innovation?

Perhaps there is minimal correlation between management (good or bad) and innovation. The status quo suggests that me too thinking is the surest path to “innovation.”

Stephen E Arnold, August 21, 2020


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