Innovation Speaker David Robertson

David Robertson

Senior Lecturer At MIT Sloan; Author of the Power Of Little Ideas And Of Brick By Brick

David Robertson is a Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management. He has extensive experience as a consultant, executive, and professor, having previously held positions at McKinsey, Wharton School, and IMD. Robertson is also the author of several award-winning books on innovation, including "Brick by Brick" and "The Power of Little Ideas". He runs the largest and highest-rated executive program at MIT, and is also a consultant and speaker for Fortune 1000 companies.

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    David Robertson biography

    Speaker David Robertson is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he teaches Innovation and Product Management. Over the course of his career, Dave has been a consultant at McKinsey, a senior executive at small and large technology companies, a radio show host, and a business school professor.

    From 2010 through 2017, Dave was a Professor of Practice at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. While at Wharton, he was the host of Innovation Navigation, a weekly radio show and podcast about innovation management ( From 2002 through 2009 Dave was the LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at Switzerland’s Institute for Management Development (IMD). While at IMD, David was given inside access to The LEGO Group, and wrote his award-winning book Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry. David’s latest book, The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation was published in May of 2017 by Harvard Business School Press.

    David currently runs MIT’s largest and highest-rated executive program, the Executive Program in General Management. He also teaches in other MIT executive programs, consults with global Fortune 1000 companies, and is a frequent speaker at corporate events and industry trade shows.

    David Robertson Speaking Videos

    David Robertson - Innovating Around the Box
    David Robertson - The Power of Little Ideas

    David Robertson Keynote Topics

    Diversity has its benefits across any organization: increased productivity, faster problem-solving, higher employee engagement, and yes, even higher innovation. The question is, how can you harness the diversity in your organization to drive that coveted skill? In this speech, David Robertson–an innovation expert, MIT faculty member, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation–offers audiences practical and useful techniques to boost company-wide innovation. By focusing and amplifying the diverse skills, knowledge, and cultural backgrounds of your teams, you will find yourself with a variety of perspectives and worldviews, says Robertson. He will teach you not only how to cultivate those perspectives, but how to combine them in novel and unexpected ways to truly become an innovation leader, no matter the industry.

    Leading a group through an innovation project is a challenging process that is much different than other types of work. The skills that let you succeed and rise in a company may not serve you well when you’re leading innovation, and can even lead you to make exactly the wrong decisions.

    What makes this more complex is that there is no single approach to innovation. Sometimes you need to sail for blue oceans, while other challenges require you to adopt disruptive new technology. Sometimes all that’s needed is an incremental improvement to a current product line, but often you need to uncover latent needs through an intensive field research effort.

    This workshop helps you understand the different types of innovation, when to use each, and how to lead a team through each. It will teach you a proven and dependable set of innovation techniques and give you a roadmap for putting them together. Through lectures, case studies, hands-on activities, and a smartphone-based simulation, you’ll learn a set of tried-and-true methods for leading innovation.

    This interactive program, designed for team leaders, product managers, and also for the mid-level and senior managers who have to supervise them, will give participants a set of tried-and-true tools and techniques for leading innovation; a structured framework for applying those tools and techniques; a recommendations for changes in roles, processes, structure, and metrics to enable successful innovation.

    Today, companies are often caught between two ways of ‘doing’ innovation. The first involves the incremental improvement of existing products, or simply spinning out another variant—but that rarely means breakthrough success. And the second means a radical, revolutionary disruption of your entire industry. But while thrilling, this is of course high-cost, high-risk, and rarely applicable for most organizations.

    Now, in a talk based on his new book The Power of Little Ideas, David Robertson outlines a third way. Rather than thinking too narrowly, or too disruptively, great companies innovate around the box. This means surrounding your key products—what made you great in the first place—with complementary innovations, or a supportive ecosystem of goods that broaden your appeal but don’t alter your central services or values. Gatorade did it by offering products meant for consumption before, during, and after performance—not by extending its range of flavored drinks. Victoria’s Secret did it by expanding into swimwear, CDs, fragrances and toiletries—not by releasing yet another bra. With reference to these, and other companies that get it—Disney, GoPro, Red Bull, Apple, Amazon, LEGO, and more—Robertson outlines the profound changes you’ll need to make to your internal processes, structure, rewards, roles, and systems to pull it off. Innovation can be logical, sustainable, and reliable. And with Robertson, you can foster a low-risk, high-reward strategy for practical change—and channel the little ideas that lead to big things.

    So much of today's innovation centers around satisfying individual needs and desires—but MIT innovation expert David Robertson says that’s not enough. We don’t live in a vacuum: the way we act is often vastly influenced by the people around us. As a member of the Cherokee nation—a very egalitarian and communal culture—David knows that if we can tap into those same community values, we’ll develop a framework of innovation that draws people in instead of shutting them out.

    In this talk, David draws from 12 of the Cherokee Values—such as finding something "sacred" to admire about a person, or living in a unified way—that have influenced several famous Cherokee innovators throughout history. David will show how you can use those values to build a dialogue with your customer community, expand the design process to incorporate community values, and innovate in ways that really matter to the people you serve.

    Managers are bombarded with dozens of theories about how to manage innovation. These theories all promise growth and profits, but the actual results are less positive. Using the case study of LEGO, David Robertson’s keynote explores how to manage innovation across a company.

    In 2003, LEGO almost went bankrupt. LEGO’s managers had followed the advice of experts—“head for blue ocean,” “practice disruptive innovation,” “open innovation,” “develop the full spectrum of innovation”—and that advice almost led them to ruin. Challenging their designers to think “out of the box” almost put them out of business! In one of the most successful turnarounds in modern business history, LEGO restructured its innovation management system and saved the company. Today, LEGO is the most profitable and fastest growing company in the toy industry, growing sales at 22% and profits at 38% per year every year for the past six years.

    In this talk, Robertson reveals the secrets behind LEGO’s success and the lessons to be learned about how to lead and structure innovation. Highly repeatable across a wide range of companies, Robertson shares the “bricks” needed to build innovation management systems—processes, tools, roles, and policies that you can apply in your company to boost your innovation success. Watch for Robertson’s ‘duck test,’ too—an interactive, ingenious way to get everyone in the audience thinking about innovation with limited resources (in this case, a handful of blocks and one challenging prompt).

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