Dana A Oliver @ The 3 Questions on Innovation and Strategy

Dana is a graduate of Northeastern University and ITT Technical Institute. He has 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. He has applied for over 30 patent applications and has been granted over 20 US patents to date.dana

Dana published his first business guide book “Mantra Leadership – Don’t Become the Emperor with No Clothes!” in January 2015. His second book Mantra Design – Innovate, Buy or Die! was published in October 2015. Dana plans to become an independent Consultant and Educator in calendar year 2016 offering expertise in Innovation Leadership. He lives in Jacksonville, FL with his wife Linda and daughter “Lexi” Alexandra.

To learn more, please visit http://www.mantraleadership.com/

We thank Mr. Dana for taking out time from his busy schedule and participate in our 3 Questions interview series.

Product Mantra: Can large companies survive and flourish by buying alone (buying innovative small companies or startups)? Does this also mean that cash rich companies may focus more on the right acquisitions and less on product innovation? 

Dana A. Oliver:  There are many examples of companies that have tried to acquire and grow without meaningful investments back into organic innovation which are not sustainable over time.  By example, if you look at Tyco during the Dennis Kozlowski era, the company grew to greater than $40 billion in revenues, and ultimately needed to be broken apart due to a lack of strategic focus, stagnant innovation and continued growth.  While there are alternative qualifying circumstances in that case, the company could not sustain its growth because in no small part due to a lack of organic investments, and a lack of brand identity.  Similar pressures are taking place in brand name companies such as General Electric and Johnson & Johnson.  Long term success necessitates focus on brands and continued organic innovation into these brands to ensure perpetual refreshment and sales for their continued business success which can be augmented with “tuck-in” acquisitions.  In order to survive in the long run, you need to have a company brand identity otherwise your customers will become lost along with sustained revenues.  Further, if you become too reliant on acquisitions, there is no guarantee you can acquire the target company due to company culture, competitor bids, price target, portfolio synergy, seller preference, sales force and customer focus leaving you without a growth engine and resultantly a revenue gap.  Also, better than 50% of all acquisitions fail to give back shareholder value while their acquisition required a handsome premium of the company’s profits.  Focused organic innovation on company brands in collaboration with target specific acquisitions for brand leverage provides the best payback to investors, and strategy for continued long term company success.

Product Mantra: Can a great strategy compensate for weak execution and vice-versa can great executors compensate for average strategy? 

Dana A. Oliver: No. Think of it this way.  Having a killer idea without the ability to bring it to commercial market is no better than having a dream.  Similarly, what good is an effective infrastructure if the only ideas are “me-too” product concepts.  A powerful and well thought out strategy with an equally effective infrastructure is key for business success.  With that said, that’s only two legs to the stool, and having emotionally intelligent leadership in place to ensure people are treated properly and leveraged is the third leg of the stool, and is what makes a great business versus a good one.

Product Mantra: How frequently should product managers/ organization revisit the product strategy? How does one ensure that he is neither early nor late to revive the product strategy? 

Dana A. Oliver: Think of your company’s strategy as a living document that is continually updated as data changes.  A strategy is not something to be looked at once a year during fiscal year planning, but as a living and breathing document to be shared with your employees and viewed as a guiding light for long term consistency.  While competitors and circumstances change, you need to remain committed to the strategy and be the very best in whatever sliver of business you decide to become best in class in as defined by your strategy.  Also, a strategy needs to be a 3 to 5-year roadmap that on-folds over time and does not occur over night.  It’s evolves and guides your decisions, but needs to outline who you are as a business and what your short term and long term goals are in order to achieve the over-arching future vision.  A strategy is similar to a (GPS), global positioning system in that a direction is set on where you are going, but as obstacles are overcome and corrected for, the ultimate goal remains unchanged and steadfastly pursued.

Thank you Mr. Dana for your sharing your valuable thoughts. Readers, we will soon publish another interview of Mr. Dana who would be taking questions on Leadership and motivation.

Dana A. Oliver is the Senior Director of Research & Development at Medtronic.

About ‘Mantra Design – Innovate, Buy or Die!’ – The Book

Mr. Dana has helped grow Medtronic’s Surgical Technologies ENT / NT division from $100 million to approximately $2 billion in annual revenues over fourteen years. 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. mantra-design-book-cover

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 about Mr. Dana A. Oliver follow this link http://www.mantraleadership.com/author/

To learn more about Abhay Mathur follow this link 

List of interviews published at Product Mantra: https://productmantra.net/interviews/



3 Questions to Product Manager Suzie Prince

suzie green mini prof (1).jpeg

With ProductMantra today is a Product Manager whose passion is minimalism. With her minimalist philosophy she creates products that are valuable, usable, feasible and desirable. Presenting to you Suzie Prince, who at present is the Head of Product at ThoughtWorks Studios. Typical to our interview series, we asked Suzie three questions.

Continue reading

How can Product Managers identify tech debts


Did you know how Amazon Web Services was born?

In early 2000s Amazon was growing quickly and hiring new software engineers, yet they were still finding, in spite of the additional people, they weren’t building applications any faster…The internal teams at Amazon required a set of common infrastructure services everyone could access without reinventing the wheel every time, and that’s precisely what Amazon set out to build — and that’s when they began to realise they might have something bigger.

This is an excerpt from TechCrunch. AWS was an extraordinary solution to a technical debt.

Continue reading

Customer visits by Product Managers

Product Managers (of enterprise products) must visit customers. However, customer visits for Product Managers are important but not urgent. If you miss a customer meeting, you would not notice anything amiss in the short term, however if you keep missing customer meetings, you will find yourself grappling to catch-up in the long-term. That is the reason you must schedule customer meetings well in advance – block your calendar – so that there is no excuse for you to skip. Continue reading

Rasmus Skjoldan @ ‘The Three Questions for Product Manager’

Rasmus_webRasmus Skjoldan is the lead product manager of Magnolia, the CMS behind sites for the likes of Virgin America, Airbus, Al Arabiya and Atlassian. Before joining Magnolia, he was
the user experience lead of the open source content application framework,
Neos—a challenge that originated from his many years in the TYPO3 community. Besides his CMS work, he co-founded Cope, the first purely content strategy focused consultancy in Denmark. Continue reading

How can Product Managers extract value from Data Scientists


Product Managers are supposed to be metrics driven and are used to extracting and analysing data to understand how the product has been performing – for the customers/users and for the business. This is usually done as an operational exercise on a day to day basis or sometimes to figure out the cause of something unusual happening on the product. This is a typical usage of dash-boarding and business intelligence; perfectly fine if you do not (or cannot) collect data beyond a few key metrics. Continue reading