What If Every Kid Got A Computer?

When the BBC recently announced the rollout of a program to give every 11 year old in the U.K. a mini-computing device (the micro:bit), it had been over a year in the making.

NXP Semiconductors, one of the project’s key contributors, had already announced that its employees’ kids would get them, too…and the decision took little more than a week.

“Rick [CEO & President Rick Clemmer] and I sat down to plan our first quarterly meeting after we’d merged with Freescale,” said John Dixon, NXP’s VP of Marketing and Communications, noting the transaction that closed in late 2015. “When we got to talking about our BBC partnership, he looked at me and asked, ‘Why not our kids, too?’”

“The live, 45,000-person meeting was scheduled for a Thursday, and we made the decision that Monday.”

Over 1,000 children of NXP’s employees will each get a micro:bit, which contains a motion detector and compass, in addition to a microprocessor, accelerometer, and gyroscope provided by NXP, in hopes of encouraging them to learn coding, and put the gizmos to use. The program will continue to benefit additional kids as they reach their 11th birthdays.

“We tend to trust our principles and vision,” Dixon continued. “The decision was simply another chance for us to practice what we preach.”

That canon was evident in the company’s decision to almost completely forgo the typical management consultant involvement in working through the NXP and Freescale integration in mid-2015, and rely on its own staff because, as Dixon put it, “We’re at the helm of our own business.”

Also, it has a longstanding role supporting innovation at the high school and university levels, and its business partnerships include work with companies such as Delphi, Harman, Siemens, and Cohda Wireless, as well as with the US Department of Transportation for securely connecting vehicles with each other and the surrounding road infrastructure. Its products are leading components in secure applications in identification, digital networking, and automotive, among other industries.

But every activity seems to find its way back to NXP’s people.

“Our maker lab in Austin is open not just for our engineers’ work, but their families can also use it to experiment,” said Dixon. “Last summer, we began hosting summer camps for employees’ kids aged 7-16, where they can learn to code and do other projects.”

Eventually, NXP hopes to roll out a micro:bit for younger kids, aged 7-8, and hopes that the current product will gain credibility with that demographic as something “the cool older kids are using.” It could also find its way to other regions of the world, perhaps involving a wider universe of corporate partners.

It’s a fair bet that any innovation will be grounded in its bias to employee involvement and empowerment. It also may be why its decisions will be faster, too.