Dana Oliver tells us how emotionally intelligent leadership grows company revenue, the processes he uses to approach innovation, and the best business mantras for entrepreneurs.
Today’s guest, Dana A. Oliver, recently retired from his position as Senior Director of Research & Development at Medtronic. With 30 years of experience and an impressive track record of revenue generation, Dana’s latest book Mantra Design is a must-read for every new product development professional aspiring to introduce premium priced, patent protected, market share leading products. He also has one previous book, Mantra Leadership.
Dana is now an independent consultant helping companies with his new organization Innovation Leadership. He is helping businesses grow by introducing the concept of Emotionally Intelligent Innovation Leadership, which emphasizes the value of individuals to a business’ success.
We’re going to learn the processes Dana used to help grow Medtronic’s revenue from $100M to $2B, the value of emotionally intelligent leadership for business growth, and the best business mantras for entrepreneurs.
“Learn your customer’s world.” (click to tweet)
“Innovation begins with an EYE.” (click to tweet)
- 2:00 – What was Dana’s role at Medtronic?
- 2:15 – When Dana first started at Medtronic, it was worth ~$4B. Now they are worth ~$28B.
- 3:15 – Annual revenue grew from ~$100M to ~$2B
- 3:30 – Dana led two projects that were big growth drivers: soft tissue microdebrider devices and high-speed drills.
- 5:00 – “Ideation is the ability to come up with ideas, but innovation is the distillation of practice of those ideas … I like to focus on innovation that is around unmet need.”
- 6:00 – What is a process that you can take to identify unmet needs?
- 6:40 – Dana’s book, Mantra Design, was written on how he identified unmet needs and developed important medical technologies. “The book is relevant to these one and two-person startups because it’s about customer focus.”
- 7:00 – Dana has two mantras for entrepreneurs:
- “Learn your customer’s world.” If you talk to a customer, you will hear a number of articulated needs. If you learn their world, you will discover a number of unarticulated needs.
- “Innovation begins with an EYE.” Dana identifies unmet needs through direct experience and personal observation.
- 11:45 – “If you can identify the 20% of the key feature sets that’s going to delight 80% of your customers, boy that’s a great target.” Conversely, if you’re a startup company competing against big players, what that also means is that big player is leaving a narrow sliver of opportunity on the table.
- 12:35 – “The key is you want to be the best in your space no matter what that small sliver is.”
- 14:15 – If you want to continue to grow your business, invest no less than 10% of your revenue into organic research and development.
- 15:50 – The book starts with the mantra, “Innovate, Buy or Die.”
- 16:50 – It takes a long time to get to simple.
- 19:30 – Too many people try to simulate things to death. Often you get just as much information if you do rapid and simple prototypes. It’s okay to use duct tape, the key is how quickly you can get a first-generation prototype in the hands of your first users.
- 22:20 – Spend 15% of your time on innovation, 85% on the core of your business.
- 24:00 – You need to think narrowly as a startup. To Dana, there are three key nodes to thinking narrowly:
- You need to be able to create a product
- You need to be able to manufacture a product
- You need to be able to sell a product
- 26:40 – “Beware of magical metrics.” There’s only three metrics that Dana cares about:
- Top-line revenue
- Earnings before income tax (EBIT)
- Market share
- 30:00 – At the end of the day, there are only three types of company personalities you can become, and you can only be the very best at one of them.
- Innovative company
- Customer-focused company
- Operationally excellent company (price sensitivity)
- 30:50 – Dana recently retired from Medtronic and launched Innovation Leadership – a change from 90,000 employees to one.
- 32:00 – Small business leaders and CEOs usually focus on strategy and effective infrastructure, but Dana prescribes emotionally intelligent innovation leadership if you truly want to be a great company. What helps separate these small startups that begin to make a difference is people.
- 34:50 – “Culture is a byproduct of leadership.”
- 37:00 – Quickfire Q&A
- 40:00 – Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman helped Dana understand what emotional intelligence was. A lot of people think of emotional intelligence as soft skills, which is true, but what Dana has tried to do is take emotional intelligence into a leadership philosophy and form. Dana believes that, when you do that, you can increase your team’s productivity by as much as 30%.
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Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Mantra Design by Dana A. Oliver (affiliate link)
- Mantra Leadership by Dana A. Oliver (affiliate link)
- Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman (affiliate link)
Answers to Quickfire Q&A:
- If you could chat with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
- My father
- Name a tool, app, or website that you can’t live without and why.
- Tell us something unique and interesting about you that not many may know.
- Dana needed to hear from a high school guidance counselor that he wasn’t made up for college, and he looked at that as a challenge. “Sometimes you need to hear something.”
- What is your favorite business book and why?
- Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman (affiliate link)
- “It began to help me understand what emotional intelligence was.”
- What is the top characteristic or trait that you look for in people you work with?
- What is something you believe, but few others agree with you?
- It has to go back to emotionally intelligent innovation leadership. “You can’t be truly great if you don’t have emotionally intelligent leadership.”
How to contact Dana:
You can get more articles, interviews and previews of Dana’s book at MantraLeadership.com.
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