Monday, July 9, 2012

Where the Heck do Innovative Ideas Come From?

Innovation should be thought of as yet another DEFINED process your company does. This process involves filling a pipeline full of market disruptive ideas. New products your competitors don't have. Fast operational processes your competitors can't match. Mind boggling customer service. These are just a few examples of what the innovation value stream may yield.

As practitioners of the Toyota Production System, and as the 4 "Ps" begin to take root in your company (Philosophy/Purpose, Develop your People and Partners, the Right Process will Produce the Right Result, and Make your Problems as Visible as possible, and the root of your learning), you will find that you have a competitive advantage over your competitors. In my company, we were able to do ~80% more with the same number of people, minus much of the 8 wastes. This itself is innovative, and can be very market disruptive. You simply become a much easier company to do business with. To do this, you need to use every brain in the company.

Same thing with new product/process development. You need to engage every single brain cell in pie-in-the-sky thinking. "Employees". Employee family members. Friends, Suppliers. And, of course, your customers. Monthly meetings that last two hours with this type of diversity of thinking can generate ideas that people too close to the forest can see. New markets with your current product line. New products for your current market. New products for new markets based on your core capabilities. 

For true innovative thinking, I've learned technical people (like Chemists (me)) are too rigid to see outside the box, and sales and marketing people and your customers simply report what your competitors have that you don't.  (This isn't innovation, it's commodity thinking).

One of my sensei once said, the more generally accepted a new idea, the less innovative it probably is. Suspend reality. The more absurd the idea, the more meaningfully unique it might be. Resist the urge to rationalize why it won't work. Work hard at loading the pipeline with ideas, and have fun doing it. THEN, as the idea is developed into a market opportunity, apply the principles of lean development and the discipline that goes with it to get it into your customer's hands. Remember, as Doug Hall says, "if you're not meaningfully unique, you'd better be cheap!"

Pick yourself up a copy of Doug Hall's book, "Jump Start Your Business Brain." 

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