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



Achieving Sustainable Growth & Profitability in Times of Disruption Pt.1

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Last week, I was the keynote speaker for a business association on the theme of Achieving Sustainable Growth & Profitability, the subject and title of my latest book. I began by illustrating the fact that we are living in a time of unprecedented ‘disruption’ in virtually every aspect of our lives, both personal and business and that this disruption will continue to increase in pace and scope.

John Di Frances

Even our upcoming presidential election has been marked by disruption as never before. Forget for a moment the politics and partisanship involved and just focus on the disruption occurring. Donald Trump has continued his life long practice of gaining massive free media instead of paying for multimillion dollar ad buys in each major media market as his opponent is doing. Meanwhile there has been the hacking of Clinton’s emails and the DNC computers, the entry of Wiki Leaks into the fray threatening additional pre-election disclosures possibly further damaging Clinton and even accusations of Russian involvement in our federal and state election processes. What comes next is anyone’s guess, but without doubt, it will continue to be characterized by unprecedented DISRUPTION!

The mainstream media, even apart from Trump’s politics, is chagrined by him and well they should be, as he is disrupting their future. Every form of media, whether print, broadcast or web has one common goal, that is to sell advertising, without which they will cease to exist. Trump is showing not only other politicians, but businesses that they can garner massive ‘free’ media coverage. And not only free, but more effective media coverage than paid advertising. Studies have shown that non-advertising media coverage is listened to and believed far more than paid ads.

Now trump is by no means the first to realize and exploit this fact. In 1980, Nicholas Graham began Joe Boxer with an investment of $1,000. Bragging that he never paid a single $1 for advertising, he built the brand of graphically colorful men’s underwear into a $100,000,000 business through media stunts in major metropolitan centers and university campuses.

Smart companies are learning from the Trump media campaign and will be seeking to employ creative strategies to gain free media coverage at the expense of the media. Today, even negative media, if carefully managed and countered can have highly positive impacts. Last year’s protests against Chick-Fil-Lay, which protestors intended to hurt the company’s sales, boomeranged as the company’s supporters responded by frequenting its restaurants more often, thereby boosting sales revenue and profits.

In 2015, John Chambers, CISCO’s Visionary CEO, addressing leaders of the most influential tech companies in the world stated:

“Disruption is the new way of life and all organizations need to not only accept this ‘new normal,’ but harness it to their advantage, as the path forward to achieving their greatest opportunities.”

“Either we disrupt or we get disrupted!”

Speaking to my audience last week, after outlining the risks to their business that disruption presents, I turned the tables and told them that these same disruptions present them with their greatest opportunities for growth and profitability. The choice is theirs. Fight disruption or try to hide from it and the result may well prove fatal for your business. Alternatively, embrace disruption as your weapon of conquest and you can create your own future. The following appeared in Forbes Magazine:

“As consumers embrace the disruptors, the floodgates are open for anyone to become a player and even a dominator in the reconstructed categories. Smart incumbents seeing the inevitable will position themselves for flexibility, becoming virtual platforms that allow their core expertise to be quickly redeployed to new businesses with new partners.”

The feedback from the attendees to my keynote was very positive, although, I think I really scared a lot of them. Good! That was the first part of my goal. They need to be scared! Now they need to ACT!, which was the second part of my goal.

If they do, they can become the disrupting force in their marketplace. If they don’t, it is only a matter of time until they are disrupted out of business.

by John Di Frances

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