Dr. Thornberry Discusses New Value Creators

Posted on March 11, 2008. Filed under: HCI Summit, Speakers |

Neal Thornberry Ph.D. and author of “Lead Like an Entrepreneur: Keeping the Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive Within the Corporation” kicked off the leadership track today with his “New Value Creators” speech. He spoke about companies developing and sustaining innovation as an enabler of both human and organizational performance. Specifically, how do you infuse entrepreneurial spirit into companies and employees.


Thornberry focused on the state of innovation. Innovation is only a tool to help the company grow, but it is not an end result.

He also indicated middle managers have suffered greatly. This is a mistake because middle management can be the biggest font of change. Yes, they can be barrierIMG_1325s, but they can also know the company well enough, make things happen and innovate. Dr. Thornberry cites the xxx for Dummies series of books as an example.

No words can describe how engaging Dr. Thornberry was. Lots of colorful stories were told sans PowerPoint, and he engaged the audience directly often walking the front of the room and parts of the aisles.

One of his colorful stories highlighted how some of the most square people can innovate great entrepreneurial ideas. And some of the most qualified people can bomb out. He cited an example of two Stanford MBAs who could not innovate. High potential does not equal high innovation.

More than 2000 people went through Dr. Thornberry’s innovation program. Only 10 or 15 developed really functional businesses. It’s important for cultures to create processes to vett and identify great innovation. A chief innovation officer cannot work. Such top down approaches usually kill middle management inspired innovations.

Dr. Thornberry believes Culture shifts aren’t great. A good way to shift opportunities is to go after challenging opportunities. By going after new opportunities, new products, new developments, the company changes the way it acts and behaves. That’s the way to develop a culture shift.

Value systems are critical. But you have to believe them and act on them. Without the right belief system and value systems you may as well take the value statement off the wall, said Dr. Thornberry.

More Insights

  • 90% of all firms are unable to sustain high growth rates beyond a few years.
  • Innovation is a tool not a destination, there is no 6 sigma for innovation. Ideation is where the fun stops. Can they execute, can they find the ideas>
  • Entrepreneurship always involves innovation; but innovation does not always involve entrepreneurship.
  • Great ideas do not equal great opportunities.
  • The entrepreneur identifies opportunities, shapes them, and then captures them. This process is self-admittedly much messier than the chart Dr. Thornberry used.
  • Entrepreneurs have to balance the opportunity, the team and the resources. You always start with the opportunity, then figure out how to execute it.
  • You can teach people the entrepreneurial thinking process.
  • Telling people no is a great way to inspire entrepreneurial types to get them to engage. They question the very basis of ideas.
  • Value creation is the heart of entrepreneurial development

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