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Dr. Stephen A. Di Biase served as the Chief Executive Officer of Laser Applications Technology (LAT) LLC and as currently President of Premier Insights, LLC. He is an entrepreneur, building businesses and capabilities from emerging technology.  In leading LAT, Dr. Di Biase developed the business model and go to market strategies for introducing a disruptive technology for labeling produce.  With Premier Insights, Dr. Di Biase teaches leaders how to become more innovative by making innovation a discipline they can refine.

During his 40 year career, Dr. Di Biase has become accomplished in using innovation to create value in a global commercial setting.  He has over 20 patents, mentored technical professionals, and taught innovation and human resource management in both corporate and university settings. He has guest lectured at several academic institutions and has authored books, patents and corporate publications. 

Dr. Di Biase graduated from The Pennsylvania State University and sits on the Science Advisory Board for The Pennsylvania State University. He is also a retired member of the Board of Trustees for the Mt. Union College, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Industrial Research Institute, a leading experienced based innovation management association.

Prior to joining JohnsonDiversey, Dr. Di Biase spent 26 years with the Lubrizol Corporation, where he held a variety of leadership positions, including general management roles and those with profit and loss responsibility for emerging businesses derived from technology platforms.  These global assignments often involved business development from strategy conception to execution managing teams of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development professionals.

Prior to accepting the assignment in business development Dr. Di Biase was the Vice President – Research, Development, and Engineering where he was responsible for the global technical and scientific leadership for a centralized R&D function comprising of 700 professionals, an operating budget of $120+ million, and a capital budget of $10+ million. 

In this role Dr. Di Biase fostered innovation and delivered results using processes such as stage gates, project and portfolio management, 6-Sigma, and advanced statistics while introducing a variety of IT based tools such as data mining and predictive modeling.

Dr. Di Biase has served as chairman of The Lubrizol Foundation Scholarship Committee, Chairman of the Northeastern Ohio Section of the American Chemical Society, Board member of the Cleveland Area Research Directors (CARD) and in The Boy Scouts of America where he served in a variety of posts.   Dr. Di Biase has been honored by The Pennsylvania State University College of Science with its 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award and serves as an adjunct professor at Benedictine University in Naperville IL.






Food for Thought

Inquiry Based Leadership

Stephen Di Biase

Inquiry Based Leadership

Most leaders are unaware of the amazing power of questions, how they can generate short-term results and long-term learning and success.  The problem is that we feel that we are supposed to have answers, not questions. Unfortunately, from an early age, we are discouraged from asking questions, especially challenging ones, be it at home, school or at church, as they are considered rude, inconsiderate or intrusive. A growing number of leaders recognize that a learning organization is better able to adapt to changes and respond to opportunities these changes present and hence thrive and questions are at the root of learning.

When leaders don’t ask questions opportunities are not only missed but disasters can occur. The Titanic sank, in part, because planners failed to raise reservations about its design and the steel used to build it.  Similarly, the Challenger space shuttle disaster could have been avoided if the engineers would have questioned, the outside temperature at the time of launch.  They knew the O-rings we’re unreliable below 53 degree F but they allowed the launch to occur when the temperature was 36 degrees F because they we’re fearful of raising the issue since the launch was already well behind schedule.  A final example is the Bay of Pigs invasion where “Group Think” led to disaster despite many involved having doubts.  The thought was if everyone agrees it must be right and I’m wrong.

There are many ways questions, and a questioning culture, can add meaningful value to an organization, a project or simply a dialog.  Beyond preventing disasters, as just described, they force us to face reality and can be the ultimate leadership tool.  Great leaders ask great questions to get things done like asking: “What needs to be done”? “What is right for the enterprise”? And thereby facilitating the development of action plans, insightful decision-making, and responsible communication, maintaining focus on opportunities instead of problems, running productive meetings and building teamwork.  Great leaders tend to listen first, speak last, and inquire always. The best thing, we can all do to strengthen our leadership is to ask questions while encouraging others to do the same in safety.

The world is changing at an unprecedented pace with knowledge doubling every 5 years.  In dealing with these future leaders:

·         Can’t know enough,

·         Must aggregate the knowledge of their people through inquiry,

·         Multiply the IQ of the enterprise,

·         Use inquiry to drive decision-making but without relying on consensus.

Where consensus provides comfort, conflict yields excellence but only if it’s constructive and constructive conflict can only take place where there is a trusting environment.  By creating a question friendly environment, we as leaders are building the trust which can lead to excellence in decision-making and strategy development.

Inquiry Based Leadership is an underutilized capability which can positively impact the enterprise by shaping its purpose, vision, and values, empowering it’s employees, and affecting its overall sustainability.  People are educated not to ask questions but provide answers, which is diametrically apposed to human nature which is naturally curious. Through careful analysis and practice, leaders can learn to use inquiry as a powerful tool becoming more effective creating learning organizations which are self-sustaining in a very dynamic business climate.