Category Archives: Improvement

A way to look at Innovation

Innovation is one the most talk about subject in last couple of years. It is likely to remain focus area for most organisation. The future of organisation is going to rely on their ability to continuously Innovate their Processes and Products. There are several definition of Innovation and each one of them adds to its own flavour and approach. At time it appears that Innovation is expressed like the blinds defining elephant as they feel.

Wikipedia defines it as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society.

In simpler terms it is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. The picture below represents different terms often used interchangeably to indicate innovation.

Some pointers to explain the picture

  1. The arrows in picture indicate the direction of relationship. For example,
    1. “Invention” may lead to “Improvement”, but every “Improvement” need not be “Invention”.
    2. “Novelty” may be there in “Innovation”, but every “Innovation” need not be Novel by itself
  2. Alteration, Transformation are different forms of “Change”

Innovation is often an outcome of events and processes is an organisation. Peter Drucker in an article “”The Discipline of Innovation”, Harvard Business School Journal, 1985, listed following as sources of Innovation. The content of the article by Peter Drucker is available at https://notendur.hi.is//~joner/eaps/druck7-b.htm

  1. Unexpected Occurrences – Post-It is an example of such innovation. The product was not something planned and worked for creating. It was an accidental finding and put in use.
  2. Incongruities – Conflicting requirements. A classic example here could be the current days rim in cans (used by many beverages companies). The rim design actually resolved both strength required as well as maintain the weight of the sheet used in can. This is often illustrated application TRIZ. TRIZ is in fact all about developing solution (which are innovative) in conflicting situation.
  3. Process Needs – The process constraints thrown on professionals in real life situations often leads to line managers coming out with innovative approaches.
  4. Industry and Market Changes – Several examples of outsourcing of different services or moving into self-service models in businesses are examples of innovation to counter a change in Industry and Market.
  5. Changes in Perception – This is very similar to changes in market and Industry changes, except that here on deals with perceptions only. Many innovation in food products both in recipe and presentation has come out to manage better perception.
  6. New Knowledge – Using technology and newer development in different way of using. Many of the innovation has been possible with touch screen technology today in products and services.

Organisations do adopt a systematic approach that begins with Process of Ideation and ends with Innovation in Products and/or Processes. Organisations like 3M, Google are known for their systematic approaches towards Innovation.

The most important factor for Innovation (which is facing a reducing trend in society and organisations) is “Tolerance for Error” and “Freedom to Experiment” Unfortunately both society and organisation do not have right attitude towards both. One cannot be sure but it is noticeable that most innovations (in real sense) are not related to “Last Mile Delivery/ Usage Issues” of Products and Services or possibly they do not reach out to the common man. There are lots of incremental improvements and repackaging. This may be an offshoot of the fact that bringing in Innovative changes in Products and / or Services are often loaded with significant risk of failures. Successful Innovation often requires experimentation that can be considered (perceived) risky in competitive environment today.