Russ Strong’s career is cross-discipline, spanning a broad spectrum of programs. Russ has a hands-on “maker” background, and is a believer in working “in the trenches” in innovation alongside the talent and experience of other hands-on Creatives. This career has led Russ to engineering, styling/design, brand and management involvement within over 60 major programs in the product development industry. He is lead inventor on over 60 patents and brings connection to corporate and community leadership and program support resources
Several of Russ’ initiatives today cross social and technical constructs, requiring new and novel ways of connecting ideas and advancing solutions — calling on advance of innovation eco-systems, pulling together other visionaries, experience, talent and resources (also aiding everyone’s projects and programs).
One of Russ’ initiatives is his online course: “Growing the ‘YOU’ of Innovation Power”. His cumulative of stories, insights and linked references is intended to launch discussions enabling young people to broaden their awareness — to more rapidly envision opportunities and create actions. Russ “has been there”. He’s felt what the young engineer, entrepreneur or artist feels as they enter or face challenges during their careers. He’s worked both in “bootstrapped” projects and in teams with the highest level resources. He is experienced in meeting the high expectations and demands of today’s industry and business world. This is what provides Russ a view to significant capability gaps yet needing to be filled — in tech development, people skills and personal and operational psychology (not covered in today’s innovation courses) — and is what provides Russ’ unique ability to speak to these.
Big picture: What is Russ Strong’s message on innovation? There are high value opportunities right in front of us! There is always potential to create a “next step”. There are yet ways to differentiate ourselves — as individuals and as organizations — where alignment of visualized opportunity, talent, great team dynamics and commitment can achieve big things.
Below is a more In-Depth Bio
— maybe a view to the unique perspective Russ brings to both his course and consulting programs, and what leads Russ to his present initiatives.
Russ Strong grew up on a dairy farm on the edge of a quintessential small town in Vermont — with 2 brothers, 2 sisters, and 7 cousins at the farm next door. His father, Horace Strong, had degrees in Dairy Science and Math, was a farmer, high school Math and Industrial Arts teacher and canoe builder. His mother, Ruth Esser Strong, grew up in New York City and Washington DC and graduated UVM in Ag Engineering. Ulrich Esser, his grandfather, was an Electrical Engineering graduate of Pratt and manager in installation of the first automatic telephone switching stations in NYC and DC. His parents were big on the outdoors, camping, travel, learning, diverse friends, creativity, “making” and sustainable living (meaning, tons of chores, animals and gardening amidst the books, sports, tree houses and go-carts). Thus, Russ was provided a breadth of experiences growing up.
While in college at the University of Idaho, Russ worked in the engineering shop and driving truck and combines on a local ranch during wheat harvests. This period also included the many road trips crossing the country. Russ got his degree in Agricultural Engineering, Tau Beta Pi, with later his PE in Mechanical Engineering.
Russ started his engineering career with three years at Avco New Idea, where he had a great mentor and direct access to the prototyping shop and manufacturing. Russ then joined Sperry New Holland to work on their Twin Rotor grain harvesters.
A successful “rogue” project solving significant challenges with this product led him to what became a 6-year tour at their engineering center in Belgium. Responsible for North American R&D within a European modular platform, Russ and his team developed what would later become NH’s global market leader. While working and traveling in Europe, he expanded his interests and training in art, architecture and industrial design.
Russ returned to the States for three-years development of Ford New Holland’s new high-hp tractor. Here, as an engineer within a unique team of diverse talents and customer-focus, Russ led the program’s styling, ergonomics and features development. To this, he brought insights gained in Europe from interface with industrial design firms, immersion in corporate politics, and personal art studies. This program also provided Russ experience working hands-on within some of Detroit’s top automotive modeling, prototyping, tooling and production shops.
The Ford Genesis 70 Series tractor led to a product partnership with Caterpillar and its features, styling and reliability set new standards in the industry. Fiat management recognized this tractor’s ability to expand their marketing strength worldwide, and this aided Ford in it’s sale of Ford New Holland to Fiat.
As the new group initiated a “global teams” approach for merging the companies and brands, Italian leadership looked to the team process utilized in development of the Ford Genesis tractor. In this, they sought Russ Strong’s integrative design “methodology” for implementing across all team and operations centers. This launched Russ’ design firm in 1992, with contract for worldwide responsibility for industrial design, and he became a “secret weapon” within their successful merger. Russ linked global engineering and product marketing teams, and executive management. Nine years of design, insane travel and tenacity shaped outcomes and the new global brand. With their acquisition of CaseIH, design results carried over into the “Red” brand also.
Russ Strong’s reputation for industry-leading styling and rapid, team-integrated programs expanded his company’s client base, adding major programs with Caterpillar, John Deere, CNH, AGCO, Vasa, DR Power and others.
On the side, Russ engaged in an architectural project that drew inspiration from his prior years living in Belgium and subsequent years of travel working in England and Italy. This personal project of designing and building Moorgate provided outlet for Russ’ creativity in architecture and landscape design, and his love of working with great craftsmen and artisans in the construction and cabinetry & furniture sectors. Russ believes that the proportions of classical architecture form much of our base perceptions of good design. Thus, he saw his study of architecture of Europe and the U.S. and his application within his Moorgate project as complimenting his development as an industrial designer (plus architecture, interior design and landscape design allows one to be creative in play with materials, light, nature and the aesthetics of both grand and personal spaces).
As Russ’ industry client base grew, Russ also initiated developments of his own in other market sectors of vehicle and product design. This work linked emerging tech, and led to identifying and addressing challenges within national security, defense and logistics — including new concepts that shifted programs at US Marine Corps and DARPA. Russ’ work in defense is yet “off radar” to the public. Though these developments face the toughest of challenges — achieving disruptive innovation within a system the least structured to allow such — the experience and tech insights gained took Russ into a 5-year study of industry innovation programs in interface with universities and cities, leading to staging a range of projects, and these within new hybrid business models.
In Russ’ consulting work, his “ground level” view to program challenges and opportunities enables him to help communicate mission objectives from the top management, and also assist communication of detailed and strategic needs to management.
Russ gets further opportunity as a “Michelin Guide Reviewer” or “undercover boss” in his interface with academia, government, defense and city organizations. By his style of working inside teams, Russ is not famous and not directly bringing the $$$. Hence, as he introduces new concepts and opportunities he gets to witness the true, unbiased responses and dynamics of organizations (as compared to idyllic mission statements and stated strategic objectives).
Russ’ unique perspective, from “all of the above”, leads him to launch his new initiative of projects, programs and a coming book, the first half of which is his course online. Here, Russ brings together a cumulative of broad perspectives to advance innovation power and excellence in outcomes — including addressing the very human characteristics and organizational dynamics jamming these up.
Join Russ as he celebrates with you the joy of our passions, creativity and power to break barriers and chart bold actions for innovation!
In 2002, Russ Strong won the BusinessWeek and IDSA Gold Award for Design Excellence in Vehicle Category, and in 2009 was the inaugural recipient of the University of Idaho’s Outstanding Alumni Innovator Award. Russ is designer of tractors and ergonomics having won Tractor of the Year Awards at Europe’s Bauma, SIMA, IEMA and AgriTechnica annual shows.
Russ Strong’s views to the future in Ag and Heavy Equipment industry featured as lead, on page 66 and 67, of IVT’s 2013 20th Anniversary Edition article “The Future is Now”
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