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Roberto Verganti      

Professor of Leadership & Innovation at Politecnico di Milano; Founder of Project Science; Director of Leadin'Lab

Roberto Verganti is Professor of Leadership and Innovation at the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano, where he directs the Leadin'Lab, the laboratory for LEADership, Design and Innovation. He has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Business School twice, at the Copenhagen Business School and at the California Polytechnic University. At Politecnico di Milano he has been the founder and first director of the School of Doctoral Programs (with more than 800 PhD students) and of the Alta Scuola Politecnica (the school on Multidisciplinary Innovation for top 2% master students). Roberto serves on the European Design Leadership Board of the European Commission, where he is also in the High Level Advisory Group of Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation.

Roberto’s research focuses on how leaders and organizations create meaningful innovations. He explores how to nurture radically new visions, and make those visions come real. His studies lie at the intersection between leadership, design and technology management. In his research Roberto combines methodologies of in-depth analysis of cases with experimentations with pioneering firms, in a variety of industries and contexts.

Roberto is the author of "Overcrowded. Designing Meaningful Products in a World Awash with Ideas", published in 2017 by MIT Press, and “Design-Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating what Things Mean” published by Harvard Business Press in 2009. “Design-Driven Innovation” has been selected by BusinessWeek as one of the Best Design an Innovation Books of 2009, and by the Academy of Management for the George R. Terry Book Award as one of the best 6 management books published in 2008 and 2009. It has been translated in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Iranian, Russian and Portuguese.

Roberto has issued more than 150 articles, including “Developing Products on Internet Time” published on Management Science, and “Innovating Through Design”, “Which Kind of Collaboration is Right for You”, “Designing Breakthrough Products”, and "The Innovative Power of Criticism" all published on the Harvard Business Review. He has been featured on The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, BusinessWeek and is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review online magazine.

Roberto, together with his team of likeminded researchers-consultants, has served as an advisor to executives and senior managers at a wide variety of manufacturing and service firms including Ferrari, Ducati, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Gucci, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Zappos, Microsoft, IBM, Vodafone, Whirlpool, Nestlè, L’Oréal, ABB, Bausch&Lomb, Prysmian, Tetrapak, ARUP, SKY NewsCorp., Deloitte. He has also helped national and regional governments around the world to conceive design and innovation policies.

Speech Topics


Overcrowded - Designing Meaningful Innovations in a World Awash with Ideas

We live in a world awash with ideas. We have become more creative, and thanks to digital technologies, we have easy access to an unprecedented amount of novel opportunities. How to make sense of this overabundance of opportunities? How to envision the next big thing? How to avoid trying everything and fall into the paradox of ideas (the more ideas we create the less we innovate)? To succeed in an overcrowded world we need a meaningful direction. To focus our creativity and the creativity of others towards a new, shared purpose. The speech shows how to take the first crucial step in any innovation journey: the design of a meaningful direction. It provides the mindset, the process, and the tools. Leveraging on the experiences of firms such as Apple, Yankee Candle, Nest Labs, Philips, Gucci, Deloitte, it shows how we can nurture a new purpose that is actionable, and that people love.

Design-Driven Transformation

Leaders know how difficult it is to drive transformation in an organization. Traditional change management paradigms promoted a classic top-down approach, assuming that people is unwilling to change: they suggest the creation of a burning platform, the communication of a change program, and the extrinsic motivation of people. And they fail.

Design Thinking is offering leaders a totally new perspective on how do drive transformation: an engaging bottom up approach, pervasive, inspired by purpose and meaning, centred on users. With Design Thinking people drive change rather than being driven into change. This speech explains why Design Thinking is the next revolution in the theories of business transformation. It shows how it works and how you can use it to become a pioneer in leadership and growth.

"What? You too?” - The power of pairs in innovation

We tend to think that innovation comes either from a lonely genius or from a community. Yet, if we look at many stories of breakthrough ventures, we discover that at the core there often is a pair: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The magic number in innovation is 2.

Innovation of course requires people and resources. The more we are, the better it is. But there are key moments, in any innovation journey, where things move forward only through the close collaboration between two persons. The trusted protected environment of a pair enable us to dare sharing half backed and unorthodox ideas, before exposing them to a larger audience. It also creates frank dynamics of mutual challenges and growth, just like sparring partners in boxing: I challenge you because I want you to win. Finally, when we are committed to another specific person, we feel personally accountable to her: when the journey will be at risk, I will hardly step back. The intimate space between two people is therefore a source of protection, reflection, resilience, which is essential to create breakthroughs. How do you find your sparring partner for your innovation journey? How do you create and nurture the intimate space that enables the two of you to go where you would never go alone? How do you move between collaboration in a large community, and pair collaboration?

This speech will tell you the unveiled secrets of many innovation leaders: the capability to pick and work with an inspiring sparring partner.

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