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Intel Case (A): 1968-1985

By Freek Vermeulen


This case series describes the growth journey of Intel from its launch in 1968 in Santa Clara, California to 2019 under the leadership of its various CEOs. Intel first became a leader in semiconductor memory by pioneering new technology that allowed it to increase the number of circuits on a chip whilst simultaneously reducing its production costs. As an innovator, Intel laid great emphasis on being first to market with premium-priced products and was the first company to move into new markets as existing ones matured. DRAM was Intel’s single most successful innovation during the 1970s and by 1972 accounted for over 90% of sales revenues, remaining Intel’s core business until the early 1980s.

As the industry matured and customers started demanding large quantities of DRAMs with guarantees in performance, reliability and price, DRAM became a commodity product and Intel struggled to compete. After eventually exiting the memory market and through transitioning to microprocessors, Intel saw a decade of unprecedented growth in the 1980s and became the largest and most profitable hardware supplier to the PC industry. The case series charts the many technical and market challenges Intel faced during a period of sweeping, often unanticipated changes in the IT industry and its strategies and pivots to remain competitive and relevant.

Learning objectives

  1. Understand the distinction between exploratory and exploitative growth
  2. Identify why and when strategy change is necessary
  3. Understand the principles of the “Darwinian” internal selection environment in a corporate context, particularly with regard to Variation and Selection.
  4. Understand Burgelman’s / Intel's “Rubber Band Framework"
  5. Identify the success trap, including the presence of cognitive inertia.


Publication Date: November 2023
LBS Case Code: CS-23-012
Subjects: , ,
Geography: ,
Pages: 4
Format: pdf