The Flight of the Kitty Hawk
HP did many things correctly when addressing the challenges for disruptive change. For instance, they organized a smaller team of “hungry” individuals from marketing, manufacturing, and research and development that moved the project away from the core group essentially acting as a small startup business. The smaller group was motivated to establish itself and prove their product was worthy of funding and upper management support. They also differentiated themselves by choosing team members that were uninterested in maintaining status in the company mainstream way of thinking. HP allowed a lot of leeway to the Kitty Hawk team in making decisions and providing financial backing to the project’s research.
A portion of the Kitty Hawk team’s downfall was their aggressive goals for revenue growth rate, and break-even timelines. In their quest to prove themselves to upper management, they pushed themselves extremely hard to reach a growth rate of 35%. They wanted HP to “become a significant industry leader.” The Kitty Hawk team also wanted to achieve a breakeven time of less than 36 months, which may be the main reason why HP missed perhaps its largest opportunity. At the time, Nintendo was shipping around 1.5 million game cartridges a day during the holiday season. Kitty Hawk team leader Rick Seymour and marketing manager Jeff White had the idea that Nintendo could use their 1.3” disk drive for storage of all their video games. The volume of 1.5 million was appealing, but due to Nintendo’s cost prohibitive $50 per disk drive, Kitty Hawk leaders soon turned their efforts towards other ideas mostly because they believed that they would not achieve their break even goal.
Initially, the way Kitty Hawk set out to find a market, in my opinion, was creative and intuitive all at once. By exploring electronics trade shows, they stumbled upon Nintendo and in turn sparked an idea that hadn’t previously come to mind. They...
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