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How Intel’s ‘Constructive Confrontation’ Can Still Work in the 21st Century Workplace

If one man can be credited for the blunt, confrontational management style that, for better or worse, has shaped Silicon Valley it’s the late-Intel CEO, Andy Grove. Grove was famous for employing a decision-making philosophy called “constructive confrontation” in which ideas were vigorously debated by engineers with no feelings spared, a method adopted by mentees including Steve Jobs. The ideas that could survive the fierce scrutiny of a team of Intel engineers would be the best of the best, so the theory goes.

But how does that fly at the modern Intel, in a Silicon Valley that’s under intense scrutiny to reform its macho management practices?

“It doesn’t work the way it did with Andy Grove,” said current Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at Fortune‘s The CEO Initiative conference on Monday in New York. “Slamming your fist on the table and telling people, ‘You’re just not thinking right’.

“In today’s world, it’s simpler to let people speak their mind. We’ve got to get their ideas out, that’s got to happen. If we’re going to invent the future and then build it we’ve got to let everybody speak their thoughts and their minds.

Pressed by Fortune‘s Adam Lashinsky on whether constructive confrontation was more polite at the modern Intel, Krzanich said it depends on context. “The good thing is we’re still engineers,” he says. “If it’s around the culture of the company then you don’t necessarily have to be more polite but you have to listen better. But when it’s a technical issue, and we’re debating what’s the future of AI is it this architecture or that architecture, I want the engineers to come in with data and real intensity so we get to the right answer and the deep technical discussions.”