Dean Schroeder’s fascination with innovation and improvement started early. As a pre-teen paper carrier, he was constantly experimenting with better, faster ways to complete his route. After completing his degree in mechanical engineering (with an industrial engineering focus) from the University of Minnesota, Schroeder worked as an engineer designing the layout of manufacturing operations and introducing new technologies.
After completing his Master of Business Administration at the University of Montana, Schroeder took on the task of turning around a failing foundry. This is where he learned the power of the front lines. As the General Manager, and with the help of a lot of improvement ideas from his employees, he led an effort that resulted in a 250 percent increase in production and an eighty percent decrease in defects in eight-weeks. Schroeder went on to lead several additional organizational start-ups and transformations before returning to school for his advanced degree.
While at the University of Minnesota for his doctorate from the Carlson School of Management, Schroeder’s course of study included classes from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. After graduating with his Ph.D., Schroeder joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts School of Management, where, as part of his service he worked with several state agencies on regional development. While at UMass he met Alan Robinson. The two began a decades long collaboration that resulted in the co-authoring of four books, including the best-selling Ideas Are Free, and many journal articles, including two that won Shingo Prizes for research. Their work together took them all over the world in search of organizations that unleashed the potential in the ideas of their front-line people.
Schroeder left UMass to become the Herbert and Agnes Schulz Professorship of Management at Valparaiso University, where he taught strategic management, leadership, and the management of innovation and change. While at Valpo he started the College of Business’s graduate programs, which offers both MBA and Master of Engineering Management degrees with a focus on values-based leadership. Schroeder has also taken teaching assignments in Europe and Asia.
Schroeder has published over a hundred articles, ranging from pieces in top academic journals such as the Academy of Management Journal and the Strategic Management Journal, to more practical articles in publications including the Wall Street Journal and The Journal of Government Financial Management.
Dr. Schroeder served for six years on the Board of Examiners of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, was on the board of the American Creativity Association, and has served on three corporate boards of directors, including his current role as Chairman of the Board for a mid-sized manufacturing firm. He has consulted with organizations on four continents, ranging in size from global giants including Siemens and NTT to family businesses and NGOs. One of his favorite consulting jobs was working with Subaru in its effort to help the National Parks become zero landfill.
Dr. Schroeder resides in the Chicago area, and is a Senior Research Professor at Valparaiso University.