top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Lim

MF 076 : “Innovate, Buy, or Die!” with ‘Mantra Design’ Author, Dana Oliver

Updated: Jun 17, 2022

Moving Forward is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

Dana Oliver is the Sr. Director of R&D at Medtronic and author of Mantra Leadership and Mantra Design (also at Today you will learn what the 85:15 rule is that allowed Dana to grow Medtronic from $100M to $2B in annual revenue and why you should control your own “obsolescence.”

Successes at a glance:

  1. Sr. Director of R&D at Medtronic (surgical technologies):

  2. Helped grow Medtronic’s annual revenue from $100M to nearly $2B!

  3. Owner of 25 Patents.

  4. Speaker, Educator in the areas of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership, Product Development, Strategy, R&D and Design.

  5. Mantra Leadership (website).

  6. Author of two books:

  7. Mantra Leadership (Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback).

  8. Mantra Design (Kindle | Hardover | Paperback).

How Dana gets inspired to conquer the day:

Dana, by nature is an extremely optimistic individual.  You can hear in his voice the enthusiasm and positive energy that he carries with him.  This is what allows him to get right out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off.  Dana follows this with a morning workout and a cup of tea to help him jump start his day.  In addition, and as someone who is responsible for the R&D behind billions of dollars of revenue, Dana shares this “engineer’s trick:” look at each morning in terms of priorities and what needs to get done.  Dana also maintains a bigger picture of what a day means.  Out of 365 days a year, we spend approximately 250 of those at work.  Thus, each missed day translates into an “incompressible moment of time.”  So Moving Forward listeners, ask yourself what “long lead item” or “important task” is ahead of you to ensure a successful day?  Do each of your days connect to a larger thread of success or is it just a lost moment of time?  Do you have “strategically important” priorities that drive you and equally important, do you have the discipline and vision to say no so you won’t get derailed from what’s important?  As Dana notes, the really successful people are the ones “that know how to cross the goal line” and that comes from devoting each day to those important tasks that will keep you moving forward.

Setback or failure that led to pivot and shift:

Dana comes with a different perspective on failure: a sharp contrast from most people.  As someone who works in R&D; managing over 100 engineers and scientists, Dana expects to face hundreds of failures every week!   In that regard, Dana shares two team mantras on failure: 1) “I want you to fall forward fast” and 2) “you need to build to learn.”  The reality is that if you avoid failure, then you are essentially avoiding risk and in turn, inhibiting your ability to move forward.  Dana’s entire career and his success has been build on innovation and “testing the limits.”  Consider that second part: “testing the limits.”  This necessitates that you find what those limits are.  When you are developing a new product or service, you won’t know what the limits are until you try things, including and especially, the unfamiliar.  This means failure becomes a necessary part of the equation.  Dana cites Thomas Edison who famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Moving Forward listeners, failure is a driver of innovation.  Without it, we would never have gotten the IPhone, Facebook, Tesla automobiles and Dana would not have been able to take Medtronic from $100M to $2B in annual revenue.  When are you going to stop seeing failure as an evil “f” word to be avoided and start embracing it as the ultimate catalyst to move forward?

Of course, the other piece to this is Dana’s first mantra, “I want you to fall forward fast.”  Dana recommends the 85:15 rule when it comes to innovation, R&D and experimentation.  To illustrate: Dana will allocate 85% of his team towards technology that has been vetted and is driving revenue and growth today.  The remaining 15% of his team is devoted to innovation; trying new and untested technologies.  This is where you have to develop a tolerance for ambiguity and failure.  That combined with perseverance and grit will ensure that you are continuing to progress, grow and move forward.  Moving Forward listeners, you can apply this same rule to your career or business.  Devote 85% to what you do best today, your wheelhouse that keeps the lights on or keeps your paycheck flowing.  However, if you are not already, devote 15% of your time and effort into new skills or areas of growth.  Experiment, play and try things that may or may not work.  This is how you will continue to evolve, pivot and move forward.

Knowledge Bursts:

  1. Resource or cultural experience that inspired Dana to move forward:

  2. Dana is a fan of motivating and uplifting movies w/ awesome soundtracks, including:

  3. Top Gun (Blu Ray | Instant Video).

  4. The Rocky Series (Blu Ray | Instant Video).

  5. How Dana stays organized and manages his time:

  6. Each morning (and evening) ask yourself what are your most critical goals or long lead items that you need to address to make each day a success.

  7. Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack:

  8. Write it down on Post-It Sticky Notes!

  9. Wikipedia for quick research.

Support the Podcast:

  1. The Corporate Cliches Adult Coloring Book: makes the perfect stocking stuffer or white elephant gift.

  2. Try out Audible (affiliate link).

  3. Try out Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

Dana’s Advice for you to Move Forward:

Dana fully acknowledges that change is hard.  Given that, he gives two pieces of sage advice: 1) believe in yourself, “whether you’ve done it or not,” and 2) remember that successful people are not afraid to fail BUT they are afraid of not trying.  Bottom line: take a risk, it’s ok to fail.  Moreover, it’s better to try and fail than look back 20 years from now and wonder what if.  Moving Forward listeners, Dana Oliver has helped Medtronic achieve huge successes from weekly failures!  You don’t increase revenue 5 fold to $2B by playing it safe.  Similarly, moving forward in your career requires a shift to look at failure as part of the success equation.  You can start taking the necessary steps by journaling.  As Dana and so many of our most inspirational guests have shared, write it down!  If you have a business idea, write it down and ask yourself, how do I explore this further?  From there, you can take action steps: search on the web, go to the library or interview someone who is in that industry or space and continue from there.  So Moving Forward listeners, are you ready to take that first step so you can identify priorities and critical goals that will let you take the next (possibly best) pivot of your life or career?  Equally important, are you failing today so you can move forward tomorrow?

Connect with Dana:

  1. Mantra Leadership (website)

  2. Mantra Leadership (Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback)

  3. Mantra Design (Kindle | Hardover | Paperback)

  4. Contact

#MantraDesign #wwwmedtroniccom #wwwmantraleadershipcom #MantraLeadership #medtronic #medicaldevicetechnology #DanaOliver #httpadriaticmedtroniccomaboutmedtronicbusinessoverviewsurgicaltechnologiesindexhtm #ProductDevelopment

bottom of page