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

Paul Rogers

Director
U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center

Paul Rogers is director of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), where he is responsible for providing executive management to deliver advanced technology solutions for all U.S. Department of Defense ground systems and combat support equipment. Rogers manages a workforce of more than 1,700 engineers, scientists, researchers and support staff and sets strategic direction for a full range of investments that affect more than 270 Army systems.

Rogers previously served as deputy program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems, where he managed the development, systems integration, acquisition, testing, fielding, sustainment and improvement of ground combat systems in accordance with the Army’s transformation campaign plan. He is a member of the Michigan National Guard and served in Iraq as the battalion commander for the 507th Engineer Battalion.