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#13—David Robertson: Innovating Around the Core of Your Company

#13—David Robertson: Innovating Around the Core of Your Company

David Robertson is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he leads the IEM and EPGM programs. He is one of the most experienced Faculty Directors at MIT, having directed executive programs for dozens of companies over the past 15 years.

From 2014 through 2017, David was the host of Innovation Navigation, a weekly radio show and podcast that focuses on the management of innovation. Each week he interviewed thought leaders from industry and academia. David is the author of the award-winning book about LEGO’s near-bankruptcy and spectacular recovery—Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry. He has published articles in Wired, Forbes, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, The Financial Times, and many other business journals.

For the past couple of decades, David has focused his work around innovation and disruption. His most recent book, The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation, is largely based on his findings in which he discusses how innovation is limited in its scope, understanding and definition. Rather being a sudden discovery, it’s often about rethinking how you work the products and solutions you already have to better meet seemingly incremental customer pain points.

In this episode, David discusses with Kaihan why we should be focusing small innovations rather that big, industry changing ones, why Steve Job’s was not a disruptor (at least not intentionally), and the approach to innovation that allows Lego to transform from near bankruptcy to supremacy, and that enabled CarMax, Gatorade, Disney, and USAA to out-innovate their competition.


"But too often, we put so much time, effort, and expense. All the cool kids go work on the disruptive revolutionary projects. And we ignore those things that made us great, we forget to honor the things that the company did to make itself great that our customers still depend on us for and that, in terms of what we know how to do and the people we've hired, that we're not just going to do yesterday and today, but we're going to continue to do tomorrow." 

-David Robertson


Episode Timeline:

00:00—Introducing David Robertson + The topic of today’s episode

2:32—If you really know me, you know that...

4:23—What is your definition of strategy or innovation?

5:55—What got you interested in innovation?

6:41—What would you say that you're most known for?

10:26—The mis-told myth of Steve Jobs as a disruptor

15:57—What would be one key lesson you'd want people to take away from The Power of Little Ideas?

17:08—What is the most impactful advice you've ever received?

18:30—What are you working on now + how to connect with David


Additional Resources:

Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry

The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation

The 4th Option Junto
The Outthinkers podcast is a growth strategy podcast hosted by Kaihan Krippendorff. Each week, Kaihan talks with forward-looking strategists and innovators that are challenging the status quo, leading the future of business, and shaping our world.