William Fischer

Emeritus Professor of Innovation Management

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William A Fischer is Emeritus Professor of Innovation Management. He co-founded and co-directs the IMD program on Driving Strategic Innovation in cooperation with the Sloan School of Management at MIT, and authors a regular column for Forbes entitled The Ideas Business.

An engineer by training, American by citizenship, Fischer has lived much of his life in Asia and Europe. He held a full professorship and endowed chair on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1976-1998), first moved to China in 1980, and later became President of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai (1997-1999). In 1999, he was awarded the Magnolia Silver Award, Shanghai’s highest award for foreigners contributing to the city’s development.

He first joined IMD in 1990 and was part of the team that developed the Managerial Deep Dive process for improved innovation conversations. His most recent books include Reinventing Giants: How Chinese Global Competitor Haier has Changed the Way that Big Companies Transform (with Umberto Lago & Fang Liu), and, with Andy Boynton, The Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make them Happen (2011), and Virtuoso Teams (2005). All of these books address issues of innovation, talent development, and expression in a variety of organizational settings.

Over the past few years, Fischer has also been recognized by a variety of sources for his professional presence on Twitter and as a leading innovation blogger.

Academic publications
Out of this world high performing teams: A video tour
The article discusses how lessons applicable to executive education can be taken from the motion picture "Apollo 13," the musical "West Side Story," and the jazz musician Miles Davis. The authors f...
Published 1 January 2007
Organisational slack and new product time to market performance
Using archival data from two different industries, this paper examines the relationship between organisational slack and new product time to market performance. Prior research has shown that there ...
Published 23 October 2017
Insight for Executives
March-madness in october: Business model innovation scores big
Business model innovation is the hottest topic today in innovation conversations, despite its being so seemingly invisible, even to the point of being overlooked in many innovation-measurement sche...
Published 10 October 2022
Disruption is alive and well, from dairy to hearing aids to EVs
Disruption continues to be a familiar topic in today’s C-suite; almost always spoken about in hushed tones, with frequent glances over one’s shoulder, as if the inevitable is about to arrive at any...
Published 1 September 2022
Revitalizing an iconic American market leader: the transformation of GE appliances
There may be no more iconic American brand than General Electric Appliances. After all, an American President, Ronald Reagan, built a large part of his public visibility selling the very idea that ...
Published 29 June 2022
Leadership in an ecosystem age: Secrets for success
Ecosystems have become the hottest new idea in managerial conversations today. While the previous favorite, “disruption,” posed problems and suggested despair, ecosystems are all about solutions an...
Published 1 April 2022
A new look for innovation: Less heroes, fewer processes
Today, as this is written, it is impossible to speak of heroism without acknowledging that real heroism has rarely been so abundantly visible as it is, at this very moment, in the streets of Ukrain...
Published 1 March 2022
Zhang Ruimin’s vision of leadership for the future 
Look around! New technologies are dramatically changing nearly every facet of the world we live and work in. New business models designed to gain advantages from these technological changes are pro...
Published 9 February 2022
Is it time to transform your organization’s culture?
Want to change the culture of your organization; give it a complete transformation? Who doesn't? But, when do you really know that the time is right for such an ambitious undertaking? At the core o...
Published 31 January 2022
Steven Spielberg and the (re)making of ‘West Side Story’
Blood on the stage, racial tensions turned violent, dissonant music and serious dance: from the beginning, the whole idea of West Side Story was definitely a disconnect from conventional musical th...
Published 30 December 2021
The future of golf: Whole in one, or sand trap?
The recent announcement by Greg Norman that his Saudi-funded partnership, LIV Golf Investment, will be investing $200 million into the Asian Tour, with a deliberate challenge of a Jeddah start on t...
Published 9 December 2021
GE, Toshiba, J&J: Reorganizing is not transformation
Serious transformation is not for the faint-hearted, and, so, it isn’t every week that an iconic firm announces such an initiative. The week before this past week, three such organizations, GE, Tos...
Published 21 November 2021
No managers, more leaders: The leadership legacy of Zhang Ruimin
The decision this morning by Mr. Zhang Ruimin, Chairman and CEO of the Haier Group, to not participate in the nomination of new directors, has taken many of his admirers by surprise. The long-servi...
Published 5 November 2021
From DoorDash to Huawei: Business model revolution
It used to be that we could excuse most CEO’s for not being more involved or supportive of innovation, because they typically did not come from a technical background. That excuse became invalid wh...
Published 29 September 2021
Ferrari puts the future in the driver's seat
The importance of the people at the top of an organization to launch or suppress transformational change is hard to deny. Despite a popularity for true bottom-up revolution, the catalyst for change...
Published 30 June 2021
Europe’s super football league: Business model failure, leadership debacle
We are living in a golden age of business model innovation. Look around, business models are disrupting industries everywhere around you: traditional news media are being challenged by subscription...
Published 21 April 2021
Leadership lessons from a year of Covid-19
It’s been more than a year, now, and the Covid-19 pandemic, instead of just disappearing, is still very much a part of our lives. We are well over one hundred million total cases having occurred wo...
Published 26 March 2021
In the new year : Learn more, not less
Think you can’t learn less? Close your eyes, plug your ears, hold your nose. See, already you are learning less: less about what’s going on around you; less about your partners and less about yours...
Published 4 January 2021
Led by data, algorithms and AI?
Imagine a world where it is acknowledged that unknown unknowns are the primary triggers of economic and social change; where literally everything is recognized to be an “accident” (in the statisti...
Published 20 November 2020
Good ideas don't last forever
There are scores of good books devoted to where new ideas come from, but when did you last see anything about where do old ideas go to? There is danger when we are not mindful of an idea’s inherent...
Published 11 October 2020
How to reposition for uncertain outcomes
Covid-19 has taught us all one thing: We are now in the world of the unknown. In the past, things might have been uncertain in your business. In the uncertain, even if there are variables at play, ...
Published 1 October 2020
Patagonia believes we should “vote the assholes out”, what issues move your organization?
If every company prides itself on being different, and thinks of itself as unique, why then does every organization look the same, sound the same, feel the same? Well, maybe not every company: Pata...
Published 22 September 2020
Leadership in a post-covid world: Where learning beats knowing
After a hundred years, we are once again fighting a global viral war that is seemingly everywhere and ever voracious. As with the Spanish Flu pandemic, once again we’ve been found wanting in our re...
Published 9 July 2020
A discussion on business model innovation with Bill Fischer and Alexander Osterwalder
A discussion on business model innovation with Bill Fischer and Alexander Osterwalder
IMD innovation expert Bill Fischer discusses the journey of the Business Model Canvas with its originator
Published 22 February 2019
How Chinese companies disrupt through business model innovation
Experts continue to debate whether Chinese businesses are truly disruptive. For some industries in the West, this question appears a bit ridiculous. The American textile and apparel industries, for...
Published 8 July 2016
The Haier road to growth
Start with 30 million responses on social media platforms to the question: "What do you want in air conditioning?" Then pay attention to the more than 670,000 people who take part in the online con...
Published 27 April 2015
Dealing with a hands-off boss
Having a hands-off manager can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, these bosses give employees considerable initiative and empowerment. On the other hand, they can sometimes be so removed from th...
Published 17 December 2014
Unlock employee innovation that fits with your strategy
In innovation circles, empowerment is now a familiar theme; project teams working highly autonomously have been behind many of the world’s most innovative offerings. But my work with colleagues stu...
Published 27 October 2014
Innovating the iPod
Seldom has a single technological innovation affected so many markets at once - the music industry, hardware vendors, the labour market, artists and consumers themselves. This is the story of how t...
Published 7 April 2011
Reinventando a mentalidade administrativa
Published 30 June 2009
Virtuoso teams
High-stakes projects need all-star teams. But all-stars often play by their own rules - and fight like cats and dogs.
Published 1 August 2005
Stephen King and the publishing industry's worst nightmare
Horror-writer Stephen King set out to give the publishing industry its biggest shock ever-by selling a book over the Internet at $1 a chapter. Things didn't go all King's way; not everyone paid for...
Published 1 August 2002
How Chinese global competitor Haier has changed the way big companies transform
Reinventing Giants