Dell’s Third Horizon – The Innovation Imperative
To the disrupters go the spoils. Those who disrupt industries, like Dell once did, change consumer behavior, alter economics, and transform lives. How did Dell lose its innovation edge, and how can it get it back? What are the lessons for other large companies? This study analyzes how innovative cultures are created, lost, and reborn in large companies through the lens of a long-term case study, namely my 13 years at Dell. The research fuses Innovation and Foresight frameworks, principally Curry & Hodgson’s Three Horizons framework, and Hill’s Willing and Able framework, and shows that Dell lost its innovation edge when a cultural shift and the pressures of Wall Street crushed risk-taking. It posits that large companies should adopt an “intelligent gambler’s” approach to innovation – namely investing in, partnering with, or acquiring other companies in order to effectively leverage their significant capital to take intelligent risks in a fast-changing world.