CEO leads talk on ingenuity, business

CEO leads talk on ingenuity, business

Allison Mueller

Kilat Fitzgerald / Winonan

America’s manufacturing industry has had some trouble on the homefront in recent years. President and CEO of Miller Ingenuity Steve Blue, spoke to Winona State University last Monday on how to make it right.

Blue began with an energizing entrance, complete with high fives while the audience got out of their seats and on their feet. After it was established this was not going to be a boring business lecture, he laid out the seven values of ingenuity: Respect, integrity, teamwork, innovation, excellence, community and commitment.

“You’re on a sacred mission, whether you know it or not, to save American manufacturing,” Blue said.

While promoting the content of his book “American Manufacturing 2.0, What Went Wrong and How to Make It Right,” Blue addressed building strong relationships within every profitable business. He described the toxic environments that can and have plagued American manufacturing, and how to handle them.

The cultural business identities that Blue shaped were out of an awareness that many entities do not possess.

“Most cultures are by default. There’s no purpose, design or rationale behind it, just like a bunch of bees in a hive,” Blue said. “So the first thing you need to do is have a culture by design, but that’s not what happens. That’s why they’re so dysfunctional.”

Blue gave clues to the audience in order to lead them on an engaging and inspiring conversation. This, coupled with his experienced stories of entrepreneurship and tough leadership decisions, made for a very engaging discussion.

“First, you have to build leadership credibility, then you have to create a culture by design, then you have to build today’s organizational capability, then and only then can you move to building future capability, which is what everybody wants to talk about,” Blue said. “People ask, ‘how can my company be more innovative?’ Well, it can’t unless you’ve laid the foundation and the framework for these other values.”

As part of leadership credibility, Blue expressed the importance of being “bone honest” with the workforce.

“Instead of talking about the government, we should focus on what we can change,” Blue said. “Very few people have the resources to greatly affect the government.”

College of Business Dean Hamid Akbari, expressed his approval of Blue’s message.

“I thought it was very engaging, and part of what the college of business is doing is ‘creating your more,’ by being engaged with the events, the community and through internships,” Akbari said.

He also thought Blue’s talk was an example of what the college of business wants to promote.

“[Blue] brought the best of two worlds, a practitioner’s world, and an academic’s world. The college of business vision and brand is now engagement, and it is about creating you more, so we want our students to really do something beyond just the classroom,” Akbari said.

Educational video and marketing specialist Bob Chesney said, “I’ve interviewed over 6,000 CEOs, what makes Steve at the top of the list is his ability to manage and mitigate risk. He takes risks, but he knows what he’s doing, and he commits people forward, taking the initiative instead of demeaning them.”

This was the first speaker scheduled by the College of Business speaker series, with more to come as the semester continues.

-By Kilat Fitzgerald