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Dave Norton: Innovator, Entrepreneur, and Mentor

Posted October 15, 2012 12:51 PM by Dylan Miyake

I saw in a press release today that WPI had named Dave Norton their "Innovator of the Year."  Dave Norton is a lot of things -- an incredible innovator, a world-renowned author and speaker, a serial entrepreneur, a long-distance cyclist, and recipient of innumerable awards for his contribution to business.  But, after reading this news, I wanted to share a more personal story about how Dave has inspired and encouraged me -- over the past 15 years -- to develop as a strategist, as a leader, and as a person.

I first started working with Dave in 1997 at a place called "Renaissance Strategy Group."  We were a boutique firm focused on Balanced Scorecard, Knowledge Management, and Process Innovation.  At Renaissance, I had the incredible opportunity to work on projects ranging from insurance to banking to oil and gas.  No matter that I was just an intern from b-school, at Renaissance I had the opportunity to contribute from day one.  And it was at Renaissance -- and from Dave -- that I learned that people are motivated by challenge, and that all you have to do in place a problem in front of someone, and give them the tools and encouragement, and they will figure out a way to solve it.  

As Renaissance grew and matured, we evolved into a number of different organizations -- Renaissance Solutions, Renaissance Worldwide, and then Dave and a few colleagues started Balanced Scorecard Collaborative (BSCol).  While I wasn't part of the founding team, I jumped at the chance to join the team at BSCol early in its lifecycle.  At BSCol, I had the opportunity to grow with the company, wearing a lot of different hats -- marketing, consulting, technology, product development, you name it, I probably did it.  And it was great fun.  Dave, throughout my career at BSCol, encouraged me to try new things, to contributed.  And I learned that I loved being part of team that was building something.

BSCol grew and then merged to become Palladium Group.  Palladium was another fun challenge -- it involved working with colleagues from across the country and across the world.  We dreamt of large global projects that could integrate performance management, analytics, and human capital management.  At Palladium, Dave taught me how to work within the context of a large organization -- when to take a stand, and when to back off.  The importance of of managing relationships internally and, most importantly, the need to focus on client needs no matter what's going on internally.   I also had the opportunity to run a line of business, which was great fun.

And, almost five years ago now, Laura, Ted, and I were sitting around thinking about what our next step would be.  And how it would be really interesting to take the lessons we learned from the private sector and apply them to the social and public sector.  Dave encouraged us from the outset, invested his time and political capital to help ensure we were successful, and has remained a strong mentor and partner.  He's taught me that while organizations come and go, the people you know and the people you trust remain the same.  And that while starting a business is a risk, it's a risk that you (to some extent) can control.  If you can work with people you trust, and deliver great work, you can succeed.

So, both my career and Ascendant have been shaped by the values that Dave has instilled:

  • Get great people and expect great things
  • Don't be afraid to try new things
  • Focus on delivering exceptional client results
  • Work with people you know and trust
  • Take a risk and bet on yourself

For this, I say "thank you."  Dave, you've been a great inspiration, leader, mentor and friend.  Congratulations on the "Innovator of the Year Award."  Well deserved.

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