OnStar, the high-profile service from General Motors that connects automobile drivers to the outside world, has made impressive strides along a tough road. That’s because president Chet Huber has embraced disciplined imagination — offering cutting-edge services to mass-market customers and pressing for growth without losing sight of profits. Here’s his road map.

Innovate from the inside out. Radical innovation can happen inside big companies if you build a team that respects insiders and listens to outsiders. “Everyone sees that there’s no opportunity to succeed if others aren’t succeeding,” Huber says. “You can’t look good at your end of the boat if the other end is sinking.”

Have the courage of your convictions. Staying true to its business plan and its technology strategy has kept OnStar on course. The basic insight: Put customers first and technology second. For example, despite carping from high-tech critics, OnStar has stuck with a simple three-button system that relies on voice commands.

Maintain your peripheral vision. Few sectors of the economy change as quickly as wireless communications. Huber’s challenge has been to keep to his technology blueprint without overlooking the next game-changing technology. “You can’t surrender to all the things you could do,” Huber says. “But you also don’t put them in a drawer and never look at them. Somewhere in that pile is something that you should be thinking about.”

You gotta make ’em pay. Ultimately, Huber understands clearly that launching innovations is fundamentally about generating revenue and profit. Getting subscribers to stick with and pay for OnStar has been one of his biggest challenges. While Huber says that more than 50 percent of the company’s users re-up after the first free year, analysts believe that the pay-up rate is lower. OnStar is working on new payment plans, with less reliance on flat monthly fees, to retain more paying subscribers.