Hi Dana, you've been incredibly successful at Medtronic over the last 14 years – tell us about yourself.
I am a kind of “rags to riches” business success. I grew up the son of a career military father with little to no disposable monies where neither of my parents attended college. The expectations were to be a good person and find a profession. In short, I worked full time during the day, and attended night school at Northeastern University, Boston, MA for ten years while receiving partial reimbursement from the businesses I worked for supplemented by myself. I began as an entry level minimum wage draftsman working my way up until my present day career.
As a brief biography, I have been (just retired) the Senior Director of Research & Development at Medtronic’s Surgical Technologies ENT / NT division and have helped grow this business unit from $100 million to approximately $2 billion in annual revenues over fourteen years. I have approximately 30 years of experience in the field of medical devices, working for such companies as Medtronic, Genzyme, SIMS Level 1, Kirwan Surgical, and Strichman Medical. I have applied for over 30 patent applications and has been granted 25 US patents to date, and I am the author of two books; Mantra Design – Innovate, Buy, or Die! Discover the Secrets for Profitable and Lasting Innovation (The book shares how to identify your customer’s unmet needs, and transform them into patent protected, premium priced, market share leading products) and Mantra Leadership – Don’t Become the Emperor with No Clothes! (The book focuses on emotionally intelligent leadership skills that can result in as much as a 30% or more improvement in productivity).
How and why did you get into product development?
The reason was simple serendipity. While I recognised as a young man I was creative and inventive, and desired to be a design engineer. The ultimate path to get into medical devices occurred early in my career through an acquaintance of my sister, which allowed me to land my first job in the medical devices space at Strichman Medical Equipment developing (SPECT) Single Photon Emission Computer Tomography imaging equipment. This early opportunity laid the ground work for the next 30 years developing technology in support of helping people by improving patient outcomes by advancing medical technologies.
What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Without question, the impressive growth trajectory of helping Medtronic Surgical Technologies grow from $100 million to approximately $2 billion in annual revenues over the last 14 years during one of the country’s worst economies since The Great Depression. This better than 10% year over year growth rate provided me with an exceptional venue of the proper way to grow a business through mostly organic development, and supplemented through small tuck-in acquisitions. This experience clearly provided me with an impressive business and innovation knowledge base, and is a lesson of how to grow through organic research and development.
What inspired you to write Mantra Design?
Given my business and innovation success, I wanted to share these philosophies in a self-help book that became Mantra Design. This was purposeful because following my retirement from Medtronic, I’ve started my own consulting company called Innovation Leadership. My books are in essence my new resume, and clearly help establish myself as an expert in these areas of knowledge.
How did you come up with the 14 mantras in Mantra Design?
I have always used mantras throughout my career due to their favourable leadership benefits such as consistency, brevity and conciseness. An essential part of leadership is consistent messaging, and mantras provided me with this tool and technique. Over my 30 years in business and research and development, these 14 mantras became the cream of crop per say. While all of these mantras have great value, my personal favourite is; Innovation Begins with an Eye!
In Mantra Design you give helpful insights on how to create and sustain a good revenue stream, what advice would you give to new start-ups before launching a new product?
I prescribe to 4 foundational principles for continued business success and they are as follows;
Commitment to business growth through organic innovation by funding research and development at investments of 10% or greater as a percentage of the company’s total revenues.
Develop and evolve your company’s product brands through your customer’s eyes.
Continuously improve your company’s products and technologies by focusing on the few truly strategic core platforms that can move the annual operating plan needle.
Hire smart, ambitious, get-it-done employees and lead them with emotionally intelligent innovation leadership skills.
You host events where you talk about Mantra Design, what are your top tips for public speaking, particularly for new start-ups pitching their ideas to potential investors?
Learn to speak like an executive with directness and brevity. Further, emphasise the 3 to 5 key take-away points you desire your audience to remember. Salient points beyond 3 – 5 will be lost and will show a lack of focus. If the audience is investment bankers and investors, their interests is in a business plan that shows a favourable double-digit return on investment in the shortest time frame possible with the least amount of risk. A previous history of success helps remove doubt.
Do you have any plans to write another book?
I will not say no, although my immediate interest is in my Innovation Leadership Consulting business. Additionally, there is a good likelihood of helping a dear friend grow this new start-up business called Next Science which specializes in infection control.
What’s your favourite book?
Primal Leadership by Daniel Goldman. The book introduced me to emotional intelligence and effectively changed my life. I have prescribed to emotionally intelligent leadership as a business and innovation leadership style due to its many benefits to business’s, leaders and employees alike which can improve productivity by as much as 30% or more.
Do you have any entrepreneurial dreams?
The idea of joining a start-up as an equity employee offers an exciting opportunity for the near future. Particularly the idea of working for a friend and having the ability to introduce synergistic ideas that help with its profitability potentially offers great satisfaction, and an interesting way of coming full circle in my career.
In Mantra Design, Dana reveals the secrets for profitable and lasting innovation, including how to identify your customer’s unmet needs and how to expedite new product development. He provides an easy to understand methodology in the form of 14 quick, digestible mantras that highlight the power of true innovation.
“Innovation is the lifeblood of any company’s continued growth and future survival,” says Dana A. Oliver. “To this day, I continue to read, learn, and evolve my leadership and innovation philosophies; and I hope that this book is beneficial to the next generation of innovation professionals.”
Mantra Design emphasizes the importance of continued innovation to keep sales teams and customers excited about the products and loyal to the business where they invest their time and money, creating the cash flow vital to a company’s success.
To learn more, click here.