Gary Pisano

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Foremost Authority on Growth and Innovation Strategy for Large Firms and Startups; Expert on Commercializing Science, Manufacturing Innovation and Competitiveness; Professor, Harvard Business School; Author, “Creative Construction” (2019)

Biography

Growth. It’s the most important issue on the minds of CEOs and senior executives at organizations in every industry around the world. And yet, we know very little about how to drive, manage, and sustain profitable growth. How fast can a company really grow profitably? How does rapid growth impact a company’s culture? How can organizations find new avenues for growth? And when is it best to grow through acquisition versus organically? Gary Pisano, a leading scholar and authority on innovation, strategy, and operations, has spent the last five years undertaking research on corporate growth and he’s helping leaders put his insights to work.

The Harry E. Figgie Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development at Harvard Business School, Pisano advises senior executives at many of the world’s largest corporations and works with a number of startups. Perhaps best known for his work on the commercialization of science, competitiveness in manufacturing and strategy, Pisano’s latest research reveals how large organizations can practice innovation at scale. The subject of his new book, “Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation” (Public Affairs, January 2019), Pisano challenges the myth that large enterprises cannot be transformative innovators, doomed to be disrupted by more nimble startups. On the contrary, Pisano says: Big businesses and fast-growing companies can master what he calls “creative construction” – and he provides the real-world, pragmatic advice and principles for how to leverage the benefits of scale for innovation.

This is why Pisano is such a sought after and relied-upon advisor: He combines practical experience with deep research to provide genuine, actionable insights and guidance to make change happen. A gifted speaker, researcher, author, advisor, board member, entrepreneur and teacher, Pisano is an authoritative voice and agenda-setting commentator on the trends impacting business and leadership – spanning knowledge creation, organizational learning, business model design, decision making, operating growth strategies, and the future of jobs and talent in the age of algorithms and machines.

Unique in his breadth of knowledge, Pisano examines each theme through multiple lenses and levels of analysis, from the individual to companies and countries. He has authored nearly 100 articles and case studies on leading corporations, such as Amazon, BMW, IBM, Merck, Pfizer, and Virgin Group, and numerous books – including “Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech” (HBR Press, 2006) and “Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance” (HBR Press, 2012).

Pisano earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University, and his doctorate in business administration from University of California, Berkley.

Gary Pisano is available for paid speaking engagements including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks, and advisory/consulting services through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

How Big Companies Can Innovate Like Startups (Audio)

July 2, 2019

Getting to Yes, And... (Audio)

June 25, 2019

Biotech Startups And The Hard Truth Of Innovation

May 20, 2019

Can Big Companies Really Be Innovative? (Audio)

May 15, 2019

Innovation Culture And Creative Construction – Interview With Gary Pisano (Audio)

April 23, 2019

The DNA of Sustained Innovation (Audio)

April 2019

strategy+business logo

Large Businesses Don't Have to be Lousy Innovators

April 11, 2019

Q&A With Gary Pisano: How Managerial Leadership Drives Innovation

March 19, 2019

Are Corporations More Innovative Than Startups? (Audio)

March 15, 2019

Annunziata & Desai Advisors: Creative Construction

March 2019

Wall Street Journal logo

Fostering an Innovation Culture: Talent, Discipline and Leadership

March 1, 2019

How Big Companies Can Out Run Disruption

February 7, 2019

How Big Companies Can Innovate Like Small Startups (Audio)

January 30, 2019

FT Business Books of the Month: January Edition

January 16, 2019

The Harsh Reality of Innovative Companies (Audio)

January 8, 2019

Harvard Business Review logo

The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures

January-February 2019

Honda Created a Civic for Very Light Jets. How Will it Fly? (Audio)

December 6, 2018

Stern Strategy Group

Big Companies Can Master Innovation. Here's How

November 12, 2018

How To Lower Drug Prices In The U.S.? Lots Of Suggestions, Few Viable Solutions

November 6, 2018

Pal's Sudden Service: Taking Fast Food to the Next Level (Audio)

August 10, 2017

Manufacturing Matters Even If It Doesn't Create Many Jobs

December 20, 2016

Neurodiversity: The Benefits of Recruiting Employees with Cognitive Disabilities

July 11, 2016

Lessons From Hollywood: A New Approach to Funding R&D

December 14, 2015

Globalization Hasn’t Killed the Manufacturing Cluster

July 20, 2015

You Need an Innovation Strategy

June 2015

Wall Street Journal

Big Pharma Needs to Get Busy in the Lab

March 19, 2015

In Defense of Routine Innovation

June 10, 2014

D’O: Making a Michelin-Starred Restaurant Affordable

December 16, 2013

Will Apple Spark a U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance?

December 10, 2012

Recovery in U.S. Manufacturing Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

October 17, 2012

America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance

October 17, 2012

Podcast: Is Manufacturing the Key to Innovation?

October 16, 2012

There’s No “Quick Fix” to America’s Manufacturing Woes

October 16, 2012

Can We Bring Back the Industrial Commons for Manufacturing?

October 3, 2012

Does America Really Need Manufacturing?

March 2012

It’s Manufacturing’s Turn for Special Treatment

March 5, 2012

Restoring American Competitiveness – McKinsey Award-winner

July 2009

Biography

Growth. It’s the most important issue on the minds of CEOs and senior executives at organizations in every industry around the world. And yet, we know very little about how to drive, manage, and sustain profitable growth. How fast can a company really grow profitably? How does rapid growth impact a company’s culture? How can organizations find new avenues for growth? And when is it best to grow through acquisition versus organically? Gary Pisano, a leading scholar and authority on innovation, strategy, and operations, has spent the last five years undertaking research on corporate growth and he’s helping leaders put his insights to work.

The Harry E. Figgie Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development at Harvard Business School, Pisano advises senior executives at many of the world’s largest corporations and works with a number of startups. Perhaps best known for his work on the commercialization of science, competitiveness in manufacturing and strategy, Pisano’s latest research reveals how large organizations can practice innovation at scale. The subject of his new book, “Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation” (Public Affairs, January 2019), Pisano challenges the myth that large enterprises cannot be transformative innovators, doomed to be disrupted by more nimble startups. On the contrary, Pisano says: Big businesses and fast-growing companies can master what he calls “creative construction” – and he provides the real-world, pragmatic advice and principles for how to leverage the benefits of scale for innovation.

This is why Pisano is such a sought after and relied-upon advisor: He combines practical experience with deep research to provide genuine, actionable insights and guidance to make change happen. A gifted speaker, researcher, author, advisor, board member, entrepreneur and teacher, Pisano is an authoritative voice and agenda-setting commentator on the trends impacting business and leadership – spanning knowledge creation, organizational learning, business model design, decision making, operating growth strategies, and the future of jobs and talent in the age of algorithms and machines.

Unique in his breadth of knowledge, Pisano examines each theme through multiple lenses and levels of analysis, from the individual to companies and countries. He has authored nearly 100 articles and case studies on leading corporations, such as Amazon, BMW, IBM, Merck, Pfizer, and Virgin Group, and numerous books – including “Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech” (HBR Press, 2006) and “Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance” (HBR Press, 2012).

Pisano earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University, and his doctorate in business administration from University of California, Berkley.

Gary Pisano is available for paid speaking engagements including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks, and advisory/consulting services through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Innovating at Scale: How Large Enterprises Can Master Creative Construction

More than ever before, economic progress is guided by creative destruction. Companies innovate or die. Conventional wisdom says only small, nimble startups are true innovators. Gary Pisano challenges the widely held belief that large enterprises are doomed to be disrupted, and offers leaders of large and fast-growing companies practical advice and principles for how to leverage the benefits of scale in innovation, a process he terms “creative construction.”

Drawing from his new book, “Creative Construction” (2019), Pisano addresses the challenges and opportunities big companies face in the innovation game. He also discusses how large firms can create a strategy that focuses on the future while minding the present, and how to foster a culture that allows innovation to thrive. And if they don’t succeed, Pisano contends that it likely has little to do with scale and much to do with management and leadership.

Managing the Machines: A New Organizational Model for Our Technological Age

It is indeed the age of algorithms. The question is no longer will machine learning and artificial intelligence change business as we know it. Now, it’s how do corporations change their organizational models to make the most of technology.

It wasn’t long ago that machines automated tasks. Today, they’re automating learning. And that is profoundly reshaping companies’ approach to talent and organizational learning. Average is no longer good enough, says Gary Pisano. Instead, there’s an increasing demand for the exceptional. Companies need superstars to pick up where machines leave off – to manage what algorithms cannot. He discusses how business leaders must transition from the organizational learning model of the past – centered on managing people – toward one focused on managing machines.

The Myths and Makings of Growth

Shareholders demand it; business media and “the street” closely watch the companies driving it; and executives seek out gurus to help engineer it. Growth is the #1 mandate for all businesses, big and small. And yet, there’s little written and known about growth – how to predict it, manage it or maintain it.

Pisano busts the myth of small company dynamism vs. big company lethargy, proving that growth rates have no correlation with size. He also introduces his growth framework – the first in the academic field of business management – and helps business leaders put it to work. And he asks – and helps answer – the questions on the minds of senior leaders: When is growth harmful or helpful? When has a company grown too large for its own good? Pisano unpacks decades of experience analyzing the decisions and paths of companies ranging from Amazon to Virgin, revealing the decisions that fostered, and are now sustaining, their growth.

You Need an Innovation Strategy: 3 Pivotal Questions You Must Ask – Answer

Why is successful innovation so hard? It’s not because of failure to execute; the problem is lack of innovation strategy, believes Gary Pisano. Drawing from his popular Harvard Business Review article, “You Need an Innovation Strategy,” Pisano outlines the process, starting with a clear understanding and articulation of specific objectives. He characterizes the four categories of innovation and delves deep into the three pivotal questions a robust innovation strategy must answer:

  1. How will innovation create value for potential customers?
  2. How will the company capture a share of the value its innovations generate?
  3. What types of innovations will create and capture value, and what resources are needed?

Because innovation cuts across functions, only senior leaders can determine the right innovation recipe and set the strategy, says Pisano. And “like the process of innovation itself, an innovation strategy involves continual experimentation, learning and adaptation.”

Media

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Books & Research

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Recommendations

Advanced Praise for “Creative Construction”

The economist Joseph Schumpeter said companies sow the seeds of their own “creative destruction”—and lose their original purpose—when they innovate. Not so, writes Pisano (Business Administration/Harvard Business School; Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech, 2006, etc.). In this deeply informed book, he describes how large enterprises can succeed at transformative innovation by “systematically creating an innovation strategy, designing an innovation system, and building an innovation culture.” He goes on, “big does not always mean ugly. Scale alone is not an impediment to innovative capacity.” Nor is acquisition the only road to growth. Even so, innovation is hard work, “akin to renovating a home while living in it.” The key is leadership prepared to “exploit” scale; size and age matter far less. Drawing on research and his own consulting experiences, Pisano explains how companies from IBM to Apple have innovated successfully by building their capabilities, identifying unmet customer needs, and working in familiar or unknown terrain, or both, to achieve goals. Driven by his use of vivid examples, the narrative covers the types of innovation, from routine (ready-to-eat salad) to outside the home court (Honda creates HondaJet) to disruptive business model (Uber v. traditional taxis); details what goes into them; and urges companies to pursue a balanced portfolio of approaches. Especially valuable is the author’s discussion of problems faced by multidivisional companies whose expertise is dispersed in independent silos that prevent them from bringing ideas together to exploit opportunities. Sony, for example, was a consumer electronics leader but lacked capacity for integrating its existing knowledge; Apple beat it in developing portable electronic devices. Pisano also examines DuPont’s invention of Kevlar, intended as a solution to a tire problem but most effective in stopping a bullet. “Kevlar, it turns out, is a great solution to many problems, just not the particular problem DuPont was focused on solving,” he writes. A useful manual for fostering a sustainable culture of change.

– Kirkus

“Gary is a passionate, knowledgeable, humorous and persuasive speaker. His preparation for the talk was excellent, as evidenced by his ability to make high-level concepts deeply relevant to my audience’s industry niche. He engaged the group in a way that led them to think differently about manufacturing strategy and competitiveness – which perfectly set the stage for the rest of the event. I would highly recommend Professor Pisano for groups of any size or focus.”

—Tom Isett, General Manager – BioProcess, GE Healthcare – Life Sciences

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Pisano, Gary

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