Dec 19, 2019

Member Spotlight: David Frazee of 3M

By Conrad Egusa

For David Frazee, the Director of Corporate Research Systems Labs at 3M, each and every day is about innovating. Reimagining and rebuilding, again and again. The multinational conglomerate 3M brings to bear the most cutting-edge research in industry, worker safety, health care, and consumer goods. And in David’s relentless pursuit of ingenuity, he’s long understood that the innovator is only as good as his or her network.

A founding member of Innovation Outreach (IO), 3M and David have drawn on the distinctive perspectives of their IO counterparts working across a broad range of industries for over a decade. We caught up with David to talk with him about his experiences as a member of the Innovation Outreach community.

What impact do you think Innovation Outreach has had on you professionally? On your company? On your industry?

There is a great personal reward that comes with the opportunity to connect and collaborate with a group of leaders that share similar goals and challenges, and to do so with the expectation of a long-term commitment to cooperation. I have had to challenge myself to be open to change, to ask and respond to difficult questions, to learn to introduce our company and organization in a meaningful way, given just a minute or two to do so. And even more importantly, I’ve learned how to bring back what I’ve learned to share with my colleagues and company. 

Despite the fact that members of IO work in such diverse fields, we find common ground in the challenges we face – from obstacles pertaining to business growth, markets, technology, culture and talent. This collaboration has benefitted me personally, and I’ve been able to pass on the fruits of what we do at Innovation Outreach to my team at 3M.

What opportunities have you been given as part of Innovation Outreach that aren’t typical with other, similar groups?

The biggest difference is in the nature and scope of collaboration. At IO events we iron out the specifics of future partnerships – but meanwhile we’re also sharing perspectives on the most complex, pressing questions of the moment: everything from blockchain implementation to the implications of AI, and more. It’s difficult to imagine this kind of diverse collaboration in other industry groups or organizations – I have not been involved in anything that comes close.

Beyond this, IO offers some other considerable opportunities. First: connections directly with Microsoft. Participating companies have had the chance to work closely – or even directly partner – with Microsoft, which has been the leader and driver of IO for a decade. 3M, for instance, owes a number of successes over the years to the connections we’ve made with Microsoft through IO. Most recently, for the past 2 years we’ve been able to participate in the Global Microsoft Hackathon. In many ways, that experience inspired 3M to go big with our first hackathon in the summer of 2019. That 3M hack turned out to be a huge success – not least because we modeled our hack on theirs, and because Microsoft led one of the big learning tracks in the 3M hack.

Lastly, in terms of opportunities, I would be remiss not to mention the chance to explore the world and get an insider’s look into the world’s most successful companies. Berlin and Dublin, most recently. Delta, Flex, and Lockheed. The list goes on.

Summarize Innovation Outreach in three words.

Share. Challenge. Do.

Why should a company opt to join Innovation Outreach?

Almost unparalleled access to your peers. What’s more, the chance to see provocative presentations from world-class thought leaders of industry and academia. And the opportunity to engage in the discussions that arise from these presentations.

What are some of your favorite topics that have been discussed at previous Innovation Outreach events and why?

2011 – Data Privacy. It was most definitely a wake-up call for me (and others), revealing that the era of big data would present privacy concerns well beyond what was then imagined. A decade later and we’ve had election influence, GDPR, CCPA, and more. IO hosted an event with at least 5 world class thought leaders in data privacy. I’ve retained 3 of those connections to this day and speak data privacy with them regularly.

2012 – Data Security from a hacker’s perspective. Tiffany Rad as keynote was compelling (and scary). Hacking and cybercrime are huge, pressing issues today.

2018 – Software-defined Society. This was another wake-up call for 3M. Without software savviness, all companies – even big manufacturing powerhouses like us – are destined to struggle.

What excites you most about the future of Innovation Outreach?

Decade 2 will certainly not lack challenging topics for us to consider. The era of Big Data, new business models, industry 4.0, an economy driven by digital natives, China, and more. An international and cross-industry approach has never been more critical to catalyzing cutting-edge technological change. And another decade of Innovation Outreach means more chances to learn from the experts, to learn from each other, and to grow our relationships.

By Conrad Egusa

Conrad Egusa is a member of the Innovation Outreach editorial team.