Organizational Innovation Strategist
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Open Innovation Strategist

Author ●  Innovation Catalyst ●  Strategic Planning Facilitator Keynote Speaker

John Di Frances Expert Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Strategic Planning Facilitator Media Credits


John Di Frances’ visionary insights and interviews have been featured in over 35 major publications internationally, regarding Business Innovation & Strategy Consulting, Facilitating Strategic Planning and Keynote Speaking. Additionally, John is the author of several business books.

knowledge + experience + creativity

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Strategic Open Innovation Keynote Speaker 

Why is John Di Frances the best choice as your motivational open innovation keynote speaker? A breakthrough thinker, he provides compelling solutions for high take-away value. In a challenging economy, the value derived from your event must outweigh the investment and demonstrate a positive ROI.


“As our opening keynote speaker, John did an outstanding job of connecting with our audience and delivered a compelling and thought-provoking presentation.  He was able to combine his expertise with humor and deliver a spot-on keynote.”             Kelley Foy, CEO, Elite Meetings International 

In a Successful Meetings Magazine survey, 93% of participants rated informational content as the most important criteria for attending a meeting or event.  As a leading keynote business motivational speaker, John delivers experience-based content with practical applications. And yes, John’s innovation keynotes are entertaining!

How Your Audience Will Benefit from John’s Keynotes:

  • Never “canned” or “stock”, but designed to your organization’s specific needs. John creates each keynote for that specific audience.
  • Offer real world professional expertise and perspective. John is not just a keynote speaker, but a business owner and international business consultant. His specialties — Complex Problem Solving, Strategy Development & Deployment and Strategic Ideation & Open Innovation.
  • Constantly updated information and strategies for recognizing breakthrough opportunities, improved performance and increased market share and ROI.
  • Inspire and captivate audiences. With humor and story-telling, John transforms real world experiences into a blueprint for positive change.
  • John’s years in corporate executive and operating management roles together with his global consulting experience across a wide range of industries, enables him to relate to almost any audience from senior executive retreats to front line employees.

The outcome of your event is critical and so is the selection of your keynote innovation speaker. Whether a business conference, association meeting, sales conference or other event, every aspect is planned and coordinated to maximize attendee value. As high content motivational business speaker, John Di Frances achieves your objectives.

“Time is money,” and the investment of those attending should deliver a solid ROI. Although the location and setting are important, what your attendees hear and then take away as useful and actionable knowledge will ultimately determine the success of your event.

The days when offsite meetings were viewed as ‘perks’ are over. Today, both attendees and employers expect meetings and events to result in positive value. As an innovative and strategic thinker, John brings a flood of fresh insights to audiences. With astute perspectives on the economic challenges developed nations face in a rapidly changing world, he bridges the gap between where we are and what we are currently doing to where we need to go and the transition necessary to get there expeditiously.

John’s unique ability as a professional keynote speaker to paint vivid pictures in the mind’s eye enlivens keynotes as he merges cutting-edge information with remarkable insights for strategic open innovation. John’s engaging keynotes are enhanced by thought-provoking visuals, story-telling and humor. His years of extensive business experience and thoroughly practical problem solving approach equip audiences with the tools they need.

John inspires the imagination to move beyond the boundaries of perceived limitations and visualize a world of untapped opportunities hidden within the chaos of a fast-shifting marketplace. He shares innovative ideas on how to navigate the changing seas and succeed!

Innovative approaches hold the key to a successful future. Think Innovatively. Think John Di Frances!

“As a professional keynote speaker, my goal is to equip people to overcome challenges and empower them to ‘see’ opportunities.”

“Thank you so much for being an incredible speaker at the Elite Meetings Alliance!  You were such an asset to the event.  We all appreciated the immense thought and care that went into the creation of your presentation, your incredibly positive attitude,…”

Erin Nunn, Event Design Specialist, Elite Meetings

Business Keynote Speaker

Strategic Open Innovation Consulting Services

DI FRANCES & ASSOCIATES, LLC is a professional services firm assisting client organizations in the optimization of specific strategic organizational and marketplace initiatives. Founded in 1983, by John Di Frances, the consulting firm has served a wide-ranging clientele including corporations, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and industry associations, both in North America and internationally, ranging in size from Fortune 100 to start-ups. In 2010, John founded RedDoorInnovation® to provide a repeatable, systematic method whereby management teams can develop purposeful innovation within a timely context. A breakthrough thinker, John acknowledges, “Not all ideas are innovation. Solutions must be value driven and capable of implementation.” Red Door Innovation is designed to facilitate an accelerated program for achieving powerful new strategies through creative idea generation (ideation) and synergistic implementation leading to measurable, breakthrough results.

It’s Easy to Miss the Point: A Fire-Fighting Fiasco

For nearly one hundred years, the U.S. Forest Service sought to prevent forest fires using every conceivable means, including the famous icon, Smokey the Bear. At first, these efforts appeared to work as the number of forest fires caused by humans significantly declined while the number of visitors to national parks and forests increased annually. But did this strategy achieve the goal of protecting our national forests and parks? Unfortunately not. Despite a decrease in the number of fires, to the dismay of the Forest Service, the intensity of fires increased. Why? The Forest Service’s fire prevention measures had, over time, inadvertently created the necessary tinder for fueling large scale fires. While periodically occurring fires burn off ground based, low hanging growth and rarely threaten the larger trees, they also serve to prevent the build-up of kindling that fuels the less frequent, but immensely devastating fires which destroy entire forests. Native Americans understood this and regularly started fires for the specific purpose of clearing brush. Corporate culture can sometimes mimic the Forest Service’s unsuccessful problem solving approach. We focus on specifics without a clear understanding of how our actions will impact the organization as a whole. As a result, we sometimes create more serious problems in the process of attempting solve lesser ones. The U.S. Forest Service eventually conquered the problem by applying the ancient Native American practice of setting fires to cause prescribed burns. It worked like a dream! In business, we must be wary of the most obvious and immediate solutions. With careful research and creative thinking, we can achieve integrated solutions for optimal outcomes without creating new problems.

Consulting on Marketplace Initiatives

As a strategic consultant, John assists companies in achieving breakthrough initiatives such as:

  • Increasing Profits by Improving Customer Service & Employee Loyalty/Productivity – ‘Cultural Metrics Dashboard’
  • Innovative New Products, Services and Product Line Extensions
  • Fostering an Organizational Culture that Promotes Innovation
  • Distinctive  New Products, Services or Product Line Extensions
  • Breakthrough Solutions to Complex Problems
  • A Plan for Increasing Employee Loyalty & Productivity
  • Streamlined R&D to Market Pipeline Strategies
  • Process Flow & Systems Improvements
  • Business Development & Integration to Maximize Synergistic Outcomes

In business today, integration is key. Accelerating change, technology and global competition demand that organizations function in an integrated versus piecemeal manner. Otherwise, an improvement to one aspect of the business may be the direct, but unrecognized cause of costly losses in another. Clearly, a holistic approach to all of an organization’s functions is essential. John has pioneered an approach he terms the Approach: Three Key Phases of Innovation for leading organizations through their iterative response to internal and external change. John assists organizations in confronting the challenges and opportunities they face through a well prepared and fully integrated system for organizational response.

Strategic Open Innovation Consultant

Your Facilitator

John Di Frances

Highly Experienced Business Executive with Track Record of Success

Innovation Facilitator John Di Frances

What can an experienced facilitator do for your leadership team?

That is a question that I am periodically asked and the answer is ‘a great deal.’ As an experienced executive yourself, you lead meetings of your staff regularly, so why not do it all of the time, for instance, for strategic thinking and planning, innovation ideation sessions or complex problem solving exercises? The answer is that these types of meetings are different than the normal day-to-day staff meetings.

Routine staff meetings are typically directed at issues that are information and decision centered. Information and operational decisions that result from discussion, typically center on knowledge and experience that are resident within the organization. In contrast, strategic thinking and planning, innovation ideation sessions or complex problem solving exercises should draw heavily from external resources and thinking.

Often when first meeting a potential new strategic consulting or facilitation client for the first time, the question arises, “You are not from our industry and don’t know our business intimately; how can you possibly help us?” My response is, “That is precisely how I can help you.” You and your personnel are experts in your business and industry. If having yet another employee with similar knowledge and experience in your industry would benefit your organization, you undoubtedly would have already hired them.

What I, as a consultant and facilitator, bring to you is what you don’t know. The experience that your organization lacks. And even more critically, the perspective that is missing from within your organization. There is an old adage that, ‘To a carpenter, every problem looks like a nail and to a mechanic every problem looks like nut and bolt.’

Your frame of reference, literally, your organizational paradigm, defines how you see every new challenge and opportunity you face. Put another way, I tell perspective clients, “Your knowledge is a mile deep and an inch wide, whereas mine is an inch deep and a mile wide.” What you do know is certainly very important, but what you don’t know is equally important.

When I founded DI FRANCES & ASSOCIATES, LLC in 1983, 95% of the dangers and threats facing my clients were from within their industry – a competitor launching a new product or service, two competitors merging into a powerhouse or a similar occurrence. Today, 90% of the risks facing companies originates from outside of their industry. Think Apple, it transformed the personal computer industry, the mobile computing industry, the telephone industry, the photography industry, the music industry…and now, teaming with IBM, it is going after the distributed business software application industry with the same vengeance.

What you don’t know will hurt you! In fact, if you will review the litany of Fortune companies that have literally vanished from the business landscape over the past decade you will realize that what you do not know, MAY EVEN KILL YOU! Benchmarking and emulating your competitors or industry leaders will neither lead you to marketplace breakthroughs or save your organization if an industry disrupter moves in. The world is too small, too connected and too globally competitive for you can to hide from accelerating change, technology and competition. There are simply too many competitors and potential competitors with voracious appetites and nowhere to hide today.

You need outside ideas and ways of ‘seeing’ and doing that bring with them the fresh breeze of innovation. Quite literally, YOU NEED YOUR PARADIGM BROKEN! If you have been doing anything the same way for the past five years, you are probably operating at a competitive disadvantage today, such is the rate of change. And that rate is increasingly accelerating!

When I facilitate teams, I push them hard to think far afield from their experience and comfort zone. I also challenge them at every turn. Do they find this uncomfortable? “Yes,” but once they get into it they also find it to be an incredibly freeing experience. We all live in the glass house of habit, method, process and system. These are not ‘bad,’ but they can become a mental straightjacket, confining thinking and creating a false sense of security. As an veteran facilitator, I know how to turn the conversation from the status quo to the ‘possible’ and then entice the group to begin to dig into that realm of unlimited possibilities.

This type of intense thinking is very hard work for all involved, but it is also incredibly rewarding to move from the ‘rut’ to the ‘possible’. I have been assisting organizations in their Strategy and Innovation efforts for thirty years, offering critical insight into the analysis and consequent assessment of key issues as well as assumed limiting constraints.

My focus in doing so is on the development and implementation of high ROI innovation strategies and I have done so with corporations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations in board meetings, high dollar negotiations, senior executive strategic planning meetings, acquisition and divestiture discussions as well as many other applications. My goal is to rapidly move the organization forward toward achieving objectives for growing success through disruptive breakthroughs.

Strategic Planning

The missing ingredient in the majority of Strategic Planning efforts is STRATEGY! Most strategic plans are merely operating plans, adorned with a rehash of Vision and Mission Statements and dominated by reams of spreadsheets detailing sales projections operating budgets. They represent ‘tactical’, not ‘strategic’ thinking. Strategic business plans should be concise, specific, actionable and time-bounded, not a lengthy document that gathers dust on the shelf. And the greatest value of any strategic planning exercise is derived from what is discovered and learned in the process, through critical thinking and active investigation and discussion among the organization’s leadership.

Strategic Planning should result in a high level ’strategic plan’, identifying key issues and strategies, not operating numbers.  The reams of spreadsheets belong in the operating plan, not the strategic plan.  The actual strategic plan should in many cases be a series of one-to-two page strategies regarding innovation, products, marketing, sales, staffing and other future issues which result from the exercise of thinking through the – near, medium and long term future. From this output the organization can then create the operating plan and financial projections needed for daily operations.

John Di Frances is a highly skilled facilitator, experienced at leading executive teams through the strategic planning process. He knows that the outcome, the final plan, will only be as effective as the discussion from which it flowed. Engaging everyone on the leadership team to fully participate and identifying and focusing the team’s attention on the high potential value issues is his goal in facilitating this process. As an outsider, he is able to both bring new ideas, thinking and solutions from other industries into the discussion and to ensure that no ‘sacred cows’ prevent full consideration of all applicable issues. For those organizations that desire additional assistance in implementing and monitoring the results of the actionable strategies result in from the plan, we offer optional services to work with your team to do so.

Strategic Scenario Planning

Strategic Scenario Planning is a methodology designed to minimize the negative impact of future crisis situations through the careful analysis of vulnerabilities and responsive pre-planning while integrating current strategies. Although one cannot completely eliminate major risks, it is both possible and prudent to seek to minimize their negative impact as well as optimize resulting marketplace strategies. This exercise is known as Strategic Scenario Identification and Response Planning. Just as insurance is necessary to mitigate risk of loss, forward thinking organizations prepare to minimize the potential risk of non-insurable calamity. The alternative is to do nothing until a natural or man-made disaster strikes and paralyzes your business. Strategic Scenario Planning can be performed either as an integrated part of Strategic Planning or as a stand-alone exercise.

The Legacy Project

The Legacy Project directs attention to the intangible aspects of organizational growth and success, acknowledging that when these concepts become the primary focus of our goal setting, the tangible outcomes such as profit growth, customer satisfaction, loyalty and employee commitment will become the natural outcomes. The Legacy Project is premised upon the fact that principled leaders empower their people to collaborate effectively, seize creative opportunities and accomplish synergistic results. This is the secret to unleashing continuous gains in organizational productivity and growth.

Ideation, Innovation & Strategic Planning Facilitator

Complex Problem Solving Business Strategy Services

Innovative Solutions to Complex Problems

John’s consulting practice draws from extensive cross-industry experience and a reputation for generating innovative strategies for solving complex problems as well as seeing opportunities for capitalizing on new markets. The following is a representative sample of solutions:


Gerson Lehrman Group – Expert

Faculty Member, National Contract Management Association

Certified – Premier Expert Network – Dunn & Bradstreet

Professional Management Consultant (PMC)

Honors Graduate – University of Wisconsin Business Administration Major /Economics Minor

SECURITY CLEARANCE  U.S. Department of Defense – SECRET (Currently Inactive)


American Bar Association

  Turnaround Management Association 

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners 

National Contract Management Association

American Defense Preparedness Association

National Defense Industrial Association

Association of the United States Army

United States Naval Institute

Professional Speakers Guild


John Di Frances’ professional career spans thirty years of global corporate, nonprofit, academic and government agency experience in senior executive and industry leadership positions.   John has worked with international organizations ranging from aerospace and defense to pharmaceutical; “black” weapons programs and high technology to consumer products; engineering and construction to computers, software and systems as well as religious and philanthropic foundations. His clients have included the U.S. Government, major U.S. corporations such as United Defense, Merck and Medco Pharmaceutical, United Technologies and Textron Corporation as well as numerous offshore corporations, trusts and foundations in Europe and Asia.

John is also an author and professional innovation keynote speaker, addressing issues that are relevant to people and organizations today.  John seeks to strip away the limitations of conventional thinking and open his audiences to the untapped possibilities that await them through true “out-of-the-box” thinking.

Most of our perceived limitations are self imposed,” he states.   “Once we understand this, we take back the power to make to make a positive contribution to solving the widespread problems that confront us as individuals as well as organizationally.”

Innovation Strategy Consultant / Strategic Planning Facilitator / Keynote Speaker