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When to Upgrade Your Innovation

Innovation is commonly talked about when discussing products. The market is very keen on product innovation and is always willing to pay for the next best “mouse-trap”. Innovation, however, can be applied to a broader criteria to include any problem solving initiative. You can innovate a process, an organizational structure, or even a technology.

Innovation actually means:

  • A new idea, device or method
  • The act or process of introducing new ideas, devices or methods.

Based on my experience, the simpler the innovation, the bigger the improvement (the KIS concept – keep it simple). In the true spirit of innovating, we look for something better. However, innovation is killed by the mind-set of, “if it is not broke, don’t fix it.” How then do you drive innovation and not just change for change’s sake?

May I offer the following suggestions:

  • Determine the real issues/problems and PRIORITIZE. Too many times we fix the small things only to drive bigger problems resulting in less innovation. The Law of Unintended Consequences can take some of the fun out of innovation.
  • Do a pilot. A friend of mine who worked in the Oil Industry liked saying, “It’s better to pump 50 gallons of water through the pipeline looking for leaks rather than 500 gallons of oil.” In other words, test yourself.  When innovating products, use rapid prototyping. When innovating processes, pilots are used. Using a defined small sub-section ensures you can work out the kinks to ensure it really is BETTER.
  • Identify the metric that you can show a before/after look. Did the innovation really make something better? Use real numbers in order to forecast future numbers. Don’t sugar coat it. If the innovation didn’t work – tell someone.

Driving a mind-set of innovation into a culture starts with showing the team that innovation works – find a problem and fix it. If the pilot doesn’t work, change your assumptions and/or your variables and try again. You know you can.

Be intentional,
Melissa

The two-sided coin of Innovation and Continuous Improvement

Innovation and continuous improvement are closely linked, though different. I tend to view them as two sides of the same coin. Encouraging both ensures your team or your company, is in a better competitive position.

So what are some of the main differences?

Innovation can be thought of as:

  • Achieving improvement through a completely different “mouse trap”
  • Seeing a need and finding a solution
  • Challenging the status quo with a process/idea that has never been done

Continuous Improvement can be viewed as:

  • Improving the current “mouse trap” to perform better
  • Looking at current solution sets and fine tuning them
  • Questioning the status quo with recommendations to improve current processes

Finally, the key to beating the competition is constantly performing better – quality, speed, costs, etc. No matter what you call it, encourage your teams to find a better way.

Be intentional,
Melissa Holobach