Employing Strategy + Open Innovation for Accelerating Profitable Growth

Strategy + Open Innovation

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Top CEO’s recognize that excellent strategies resulting from effective strategic planning together with the aggressive pursuit of open innovation are important to the growth and future of their business. However, they do not always fully grasp the close correlation between these two critical aspects of business.

Strategy + Open Innovation Business Keynote Speaker

As a business consultant and keynote speaker who focuses on Strategic Innovation, it is my desire to raise senior executive’s awareness of the synergistic power of integrating these two distinct, but related disciplines. Although each is in itself a powerful business driver, together it is possible to achieve exponential results through the combination of strategy + open innovation.

Just as lighter fluid acts as an accelerator to fire, open innovation can provide an accelerating dynamic to corporate strategy and vice versa. Rather than viewing these two crucial business activities as separate silos, understanding the interrelationship will positively transform both their performance as well as the results that ensue.

Strategy and open innovation are really two sides of the same coin. Innovation Empowers Strategy and Strategy Directs Innovation. Sounds circular? That’s because it is circular. The two activities should feed each other in one continuous loop.

When I say that innovation empowers strategy I am referring to the fact that through open innovation new strategic opportunities are revealed to the organization. Innovation is by definition: “Change that creates a new dimension of highly beneficial performance.” It is these new dimensions of beneficial performance that open the way for new strategies. For example, if a particular innovation initiative results in a new product or your company’s entry into a new marketplace, these clearly require the development of new strategies in order to properly implement.

Likewise, it is the organization’s strategic plan which determines the direction in which you’re people will focus their innovation efforts. This prevents you’re people from wasting valuable resources on merely creative ideas which hold no real potential for moving the organization forward. Creativity is wonderful, but unless it is actively directed toward achieving the desired strategic outcomes of the business, namely sustainable growth and profitability, it simply dilutes productive efforts.

Some years ago, the Vice President of Manufacturing for a company that produced bio-feedstocks for other research companies requested my assistance. Their R&D budget amounted to more than one half of the company’s total operating expenditures. The vice president’s primary concern was that although the company was highly profitable, the vast majority of their revenue resulted from legacy products which would soon lose patent protection. Their pipeline of new products was full, unfortunately they had been unable to successfully commercialize any new products coming out of R&D for several years.

It was clear that the researchers were very intelligent and actively pursuing new breakthrough products. However, it soon became clear to me that they were doing so within their own silos. Each PhD researcher had total autonomy as to what potential products their team conducted research on. Also, this was done without any collaboration with either the marketing department or manufacturing. The steady stream of new products which emerged from the pipeline during the prior several years either had no viable market or we’re discovered to be extremely difficult to scale from test tube and beaker into commercial production. This company represented the classic example of wonderfully creative and innovative R&D which was literally destroying the company’s future.

In stark contrast, meaningful R&D and in fact all innovation initiatives across the entire organization should have the clear objective of creating highly beneficial ‘new’ value. It is the active, continuous loop of open innovation and strategy which can result in the synergistic integration of the two activities, thereby maximizing the benefit to the company.

Synergistic Integration of Strategy + Open Innovation Objective

Establishing the synergistic integration of strategy and open innovation should be a clear and critical objective for all employees to pursue. Only in this way will the company be assured of obtaining the optimal benefit from the resources employed. This is not a difficult task, however, it does require the active and sustained leadership of the executive team in both encouraging and enforcing this objective.

by John Di Frances

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Strategy & Open Innovation Keynote Speaker www.difrances.com

Strategic Innovation Consultant StrategicInnovation.Consulting


Office: 262.278.6250 / Mobile: 262.844.0605



‘Speaking Innovation’ – An Effective Means of Reinforcing Culture

‘Speaking Innovation’

Leaders verbally interjecting the principles of innovative thinking and questioning into discussions will over time have a powerful positive affect on an organization.

John Di Frances - Open Innovation Strategist Picture

John Di Frances – Open Innovation Strategist

When I say ‘Speaking Innovation,’ I am not referring to speaking about innovation or the fact that I am a professional business keynote innovation speaker. No, here I am addressing the act of consciously ‘speaking innovation’ as a way to encourage and foster it within your organization.

When we make it our habit to ‘speak innovation’ in the course of our normal workday, what we are doing is actively reinforcing our belief that innovation is the primary way in which we can and intend to move our organization forward to the achievement of our strategic goals. Speaking innovation is the act of incorporating our belief in innovation into the mindset in which we approach everything we do.

Most people have heard various wise adages regarding thinking and speaking positively and how doing so can influence outcomes and this is certainly true. If you approach any task or project with a negative attitude, it is unlikely the results will be exceptional, whereas if you do so with a positive attitude and expectations, the odds of attaining those desired outcomes rises dramatically.

The same holds true for our commitment to innovation. If we inject the theme of ‘innovation’ into our conversations in a meaningful way and encourage those around us to do likewise, it will help set the tone for whatever we are about to do. This creates a positive expectation that our work will embrace innovative thinking and the results will demonstrate exceptional outcomes.

This is especially important for leaders within the organization. Let’s face it, people take their cues from their leaders. They watch and listen for what their leaders are saying and how they respond. Leaders who inject innovation as a basis for action and respond positively when others do likewise, will see their people following their lead.

The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” does not work. However, “Do as I say and watch what I do,” results both in winning our peoples’ respect and admiration as well as positively influencing their behavior. ‘Speaking innovation’ as a natural part of our daily activities reinforces our own commitment to innovation as well as causing our people to emulate our actions in their own approach to business issues.



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John Di Frances is an Open Innovation Strategist and Strategic Planning Facilitator assisting companies and not-for-profit- organizations globally since 1983. John is also an internationally acclaimed keynote business speaker. He is the author of several business books, including his latest, MINDING THE GIRAFFES: The People Side of Innovation (2012). His newest book, The CEO’s Guide to Strategic Planning is scheduled for release in 2015.

www.difrances.com / RedDoorInnovation.com / MINDING THE GIRAFFES.com LinkedIn.com/in/JohnDiFrances
Office: 262.278.6250 / Mobile: 262.844.0605, Email JDF@difrances.com



Is George Clooney Facing Un-Employment?

50+ Employment Discrimination is Alive and Well

John Di Frances on 50+ Workplace Age Discrimination

John Di Frances – Visionary Iconoclast

Probably not in Hollywood?  Last I checked, he was still busy making movies.

But would that be true if George Clooney’s career was in corporate America instead of Hollywood?  Would he be employable at 54? Not likely, unless he was already a senior executive with the types of board level and other contacts that would enable him jump to another executive position if at any point he needed it.

That, unfortunately is the truth about unemployment today. If you are fifty or older today in America, you are considered over the hill by most corporate HR departments are concerned. In speaking with recruiters since the Great Recession, the story I have heard repeatedly is that frequently the most qualified candidates are in their 50’s and 60’s, but clients don’t want to see their resumes. Of course employers would say so publicly, but they ensure that recruiters understand that over fifty equates to ‘over the hill.’ What can the recruiters do? To keep their clients, they weed out those their clients deem ‘too old.’

Of course this employment practice is illegal, but it’s also rampant across corporate America. No one will admit it publicly, not HR professionals or recruiters, but it is an all too common reality. Otherwise, why have so many highly qualified and experienced professionals in this age range sought work for one, two, three or more years without gaining employment commensurate with their qualifications? Many with stellar resumes cannot even obtain meaningful interviews?

Federal and state government EEOC departments are turning a blind eye as well. For starters, how difficult would it be for them to conduct a study of some Fortune corporations to compare the age dispersion of those they have hired since 2008, with that of those unemployed nationally? Making an example of a few of our larger corporations would get the attention of companies nationwide.

Hollywood understands that ‘mastery of craft’ has great value, why not corporate America. Consider Maggie Smith. She is 80! Yes, that’s EIGHTY years old. But, have you seen any of her recent movies, such asThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or My Old Lady? She’s incredible! And she’s showing no signs of letting up, with more television and movie projects in the works. She is still at the top of her profession. Age hasn’t diminished her skills.

I have met my share of former managers and executives who are burnouts by their 50’s and 60’s. I certainly would not hire one of them. At the same time, I have also met many dynamic individuals who, due to company ‘right-sizings’ and plant closures, have suddenly found themselves unemployed. Smart companies have been bucking this trend and are gaining a strategic advantage over their competitors by hiring these highly valuable workers.

The past few years I have had the privilege of speaking annually for a local support and networking group comprised of long term unemployed workers, most in this age range. Watching their discouragement change to encouragement is is my reward for doing so.

Many are highly passionate, dynamic, skilled individuals possessing a wealth of experience and knowledge. It amazes me that corporate America is so very blind as to be oblivious to the waste of such a precious resource! Laid off two, three or more years now, some have given up and accepted forced retirement or accepted positions far below their ability, just to be employed.
It’s depressing for them and a loss for the organizations that are missing the opportunity to capitalize on the contribution they would make. They may not have an MBA or other advanced degree which is so highly prized by employers today, however their knowledge and experience gained over decades is far more valuable.

I graduated from college with a Business major and an Economics minor. I ‘thought’ I was prepared for the business world. But after six months on my first job, I came to the surprising revelation that what my education afforded me were fundamental tools by which I could begin to ‘learn the art of business.’ I am not downplaying the contribution of the 20 and 30 year olds in the workplace. My wife and I have five children and three son-in-laws all who have advanced degrees completed or are in process, including several at the MD / PhD levels. As valuable as their degrees are, they are only tools. Knowledge and experience must must be gained on the job.

Through the years that I have been consulting on Innovation and Strategy, I have on occasions encountered recent MBA’s who thought and acted as though their degree made them business experts. They assumed that the case studies they learned in school equated to actual business experience? Those business case studies were undoubtedly instructive, however, many of the currently unemployed, fifty plus years olds actually “lived” those case studies. Now who do you think is better prepared to most effectively apply the lessons learned?

I have taken more flights than I care to remember over the course of my career, including a few that very nearly ended in disaster. Today, as I board an airplane, I glance into the cockpit, hoping to see some gray hair. Nothing wrong with young pilots, everyone has to learn somewhere along the way. I’d just rather not be on one of their flights when serious trouble ensues.

In my college days, I had the opportunity to go sailing with the first TWA pilot to be qualified on the then brand new Boeing 747. He was TWA’s most senior pilot. He earned what I thought was an exorbitant salary and I naively asked him the question, “Do you really ‘earn’ that much money?” He smiled at me and said, “Not most of the time. In fact, most of the time, especially on transatlantic flights, I have to fight boredom in the cockpit. But then again, once or twice a year, when several hundred lives are in my hands for a few terrifying minutes of near catastrophe, I earn every penny of it!”

I never forgot his response. And I learned from it!