Sunday, November 1, 2015

Innovation: Simple, Easy and Fast

"Innovation is the specific function of entrepreneurship, whether in an existing business, a public service institution, or a new venture started by a lone individual in the family kitchen. It is the means by which the entrepreneur either creates new wealth-producing resources or endows existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth." Peter Drucker

When we think about innovation, often our mind turns to R&D or the next BIG thing. Businesses do spend millions and millions of dollars trying to stay ahead of the competition by working to develop new products or services that their competitors don't have.

True innovation is not as easy it it sounds. Usually there is an investment in lots of time and money, and it is not risk-free. Sometimes it makes sense to patent a new idea, which, again, costs time and money. If an idea is truly innovative, it should be disruptive to your business, not merely more of the same in a different size or color. Truly innovative ideas are usually laughed at to start, and force people to think completely differently as the idea is developed into something people will pay more for. The production floor, the sales and marketing teams and the quality department might be turned upside down. Think iPod here vs. the Walkman.

It is a good idea to have a steady pipeline of hundreds of ideas in the works, and I would always want to launch a few difference makers each year. But this does not have to be the beginning and end of innovative thinking. 

I believe customers will line up if your innovative thinking includes your customer facing processes. By being the simplest, fastest, and easiest to do business with, people have demonstrated for decades that they will happily pay more. Remember the goal of lean thinking is not to eliminate waste or to have pretty lines on the floor in my warehouse....it is to leverage operational excellence to create market disruption. The objective is flow, which your customers will experience as the simplest, fastest and easiest option in the marketplace. All we need to is apply lean thinking to eliminate as much of the non-value added work our customers have to do to do business with us. 

How easy is it to select the right product? How easy is it to place an order? How long does it take to talk to someone I need? How often do I have to go on hold? How many voice mails do I have to leave? How long before someone responds to my e-mail? How long do I have to wait for my order? How much gymnastics do I need to do if I want to return something? Dos everyone I talk to make me feel like my business is important?

Silo thinking (handoffs) cause your customers to do way too much work, and is definitely not innovative, since that is how most companies operate. Being "on time" and having "good quality" is expected, and nothing to crow about. Use A3 to involve every single person in the business in SIPOC working toward simple, fast and easy for ALL customer-facing processes. Including the customer I hand my work to.

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