Jeff DeGraff: Don’t Wait for the Next Best Thing to Pass You By, Innovate

By Daniel Lai 

“Innovation is a key ingredient for leaders to scale their business and sustain growth,” Jeff DeGraff, professor of business administration at the University of Michigan, said during his keynote address at the annual Middle Market CEO Summit.

“If you seek growth, innovation isn’t your best friend … it’s your only friend,” DeGraff said.

Drawing on examples from his past clients, such as Coca-Cola and Microsoft, the self-professed “dean of innovation,” said successful leaders are ones who understand the importance of:

  • Finding, developing and connecting the best people
  • Establishing a sustainable high-performing culture
  • Engaging a wide array of expertise and capability
  • Creating a collaborative learning environment

In order to accomplish those goals, oftentimes leaders must adopt a “prismatic” way of thinking, DeGraff said. The prismatic model divides innovation into four areas: collaborate, create, control and compete. Watch DeGraff’s presentation on prismatic thinking and how it can spark innovation.

Following the keynote, panelists John Fikany of Quicken Loans, Wright Lassiter III of Henry Ford Health System, and Paul Rogers, director of the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) discussed how culture is driving innovation in their respective organizations.

“Two of the biggest issues in health care right now are preventable medical errors and the overall expense of care. Innovation is a way to solve both of these issues,” Lassiter said. “At Henry Ford we celebrate those who not only have the forethought for an idea, but also help to bring it to market.”

Pointing to the success of Henry Ford Health System’s patented Model G patient gown, Lassiter said innovation is often spawned by collaboration, adding that the hospital is currently working with a tech startup to redesign the traditional hospital bed.

Fikany said innovation is such a critical component of Quicken Loans’ success that the company gives employees a half-day weekly to follow their passion, which has led to the creation of numerous product ideas such as the high-speed internet service, Rocket Fiber, serving Detroit.

Additional coverage from the Middle Market CEO Summit:

Regional CEOs Tackle Innovation, Cybersecurity and Challenges for the Middle Market

Cybersecurity Starts at the Top: Why Middle Market CEOs Must Lead

Business Leaders are Called On to Help Heal the Country When the Election is Over

Regional CEOs Tackle Innovation, Cybersecurity and Challenges for the Middle Market

By Daniel Lai

In today’s fast-paced world of instant gratification, innovation is not always easy but it is necessary if businesses are going to succeed in the marketplace. That was the message that kicked off the annual Middle Market CEO Summit hosted by Bank of America, Deloitte and the Detroit Regional Chamber last Thursday.

“Innovation is not born from freedom, it is born from constraint,” said Jeff DeGraff, professor of business administration at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “The worst growth strategy for any business is to have an increasing share of a decreasing market. The risk-takers who reimagine their industry, who anticipate and feel their way towards the future will be the ones who survive and thrive in new environments.”

Regardless of size, DeGraff said business leaders can spark innovation among employees by following a few simple steps:

  • Find, develop and connect the best people
  • Establish a sustainable high-performing culture
  • Engage a wide array of expertise and capability
  • Create a collaborative learning environment

The message resonated with the audience of more than 60 CEOs and C-level professionals who gathered at MotorCity Casino Hotel for a half-day Summit focused on issues and solutions for the middle market. Topics ranged from cybersecurity and protecting data from both inside and outside the organization, to the importance of cultivating a strong CEO and CFO relationship.

“(The Summit) is about creating a lasting and influential conversation amongst our middle market leaders on what is needed to grow their companies and the obstacles they may face on that journey,” said Mark Davidoff, Michigan managing partner for Deloitte and Chamber Board member.

Other topics throughout the day focused on the national water infrastructure crisis and how Michigan can lead the way in building healthy communities through public and private collaboration, as well as the 2016 presidential election and its potential impact on business.

In addition to DeGraff, keynote speakers and panelists included: Quicken Loans’ John Fikany, EHIM Inc.’s Mindi Fynke, Deloitte’s Frank Friedman, George Hawkins of D.C. Water, Henry Ford Health System’s Wright Lassiter III, Nexcare Health Systems’ Mike Perry, Walbridge’s John Rakolta Jr., Paul Rodgers of TARDEC, Joan Rose from the Center for Water Sciences, Kelly Rossman-McKinney and John Truscott of Truscott Rossman, Rush Group’s Andra Rush, and Bank of America’s James Scopis.

Additional coverage from the Middle Market CEO Summit:

Business Leaders are Called On to Help Heal the Country When the Election is Over

Cybersecurity Starts at the Top: Why Middle Market CEOs Must Lead

Jeff DeGraff: Don’t Wait for the Next Best Thing to Pass You By, Innovate