‘Innovation’ features on many agendas today and is used more than ever by business leaders. However, considering the attention grabber that it seems to be, is its meaning or how to achieve it really understood?
According to ‘The BusinessDictionary’, innovation is …
the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value for which customers will pay. Therefore, to be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need.
A minority of companies do strike it lucky at launching a product or service that meet the above criteria first time. However, the majority have to work hard to achieve the right cost levels and value perception before it can be innovative. But without solely shaving input costs or worse, your margins, how can you make something more economical and value-added?
For this reason Continuous Improvement (CI) is the approach that sits in harmony with innovation. The innovation criteria sit at the heart of what lean six-sigma is about. CI is founded on enabling product or service to be delivered consistently, with the least waste activities. This helps to deliver economical cost. Also, the lean principle of increasing value for customers aligns perfectly to the criteria of satisfying a specific need.
Building lean thinking into idea development increases the likelihood of successful innovation and maintaining a competitive edge. If you are an innovation-focused company and you haven’t incorporated the benefits of lean six-sigma thinking you may be missing opportunities.
Here are five tips on how to incorporate lean thinking and ensure innovation is successful.
- Understand what your customers truly value about your product or service. Ask them and don’t assume you know, as its not always obvious.
- Associate the process steps in your value streams that directly impact aspects the customers explained that they value.
- Prioritize those process opportunities that will provide the greatest dividends if improved. These may not be the same as flavour-of-the-month ‘urgent’ issues that first come to mind.
- Remove process wastes and make it flow as efficiently as possible in the ‘least waste way’.
- Standardize and codify process knowledge to make performance replicable and repeatable.
Next time you think ‘innovation’, consider if you have applied improvement thinking to make your product or service offering economical, replicable and valuable to your customer. Effort spent at this stage will improve your competitive positioning for the longer term.
By Gavin Jones