Innovation & Continuous Improvement — Bedfellows or Combatants?
Powerful new technologies, startups, and ecosystem trends are driving profound change — and the beating heart of the Innovation Imperative.
With this rapidly evolving and ever-changing ecosystem comes the need to change. As the common mantra goes and to quote theologian and author, Leonard Sweet, “stagnation is death. If you don’t change, you die. It’s that simple.” No smart leader wishes to suffer the same fate as Kodak or Blockbuster — left behind to wither as the world moves on.
For these reasons, corporate innovation programs have sprouted up at many companies. There are more Innovation Officers than ever. And increasingly, Innovation Labs and other business-model creation garages are embedded within the modern corporation.
Separately, to combat the risk of falling complacent and to always strive for change, most modern firms — especially those in dynamic and fast-moving industries — come armed with a “continuous improvement” function or program, well-versed in kaizen, Six Sigma, and TQM.
And yet…seldom do these teams collaborate effectively together. More often, in our experience, they each do their own thing and stay out of each other’s way. That’s a shame.
Both disciplines can be immensely effective in identifying ways that can push the business forward — from product improvements, advancing internal systems, revamping processes, updating workplace standards, creating opportunities for heightened customer experience, and beyond.
Leverage the power of continuous innovation with idea crowdsourcing
The moral of the story is simple. To achieve true continuous innovation in an organization of any material size — be it incremental or transformative — it is imperative that it involves deconstructing departmental silos and involving its people at every level. A Continuous Innovation program drives improvements to both the top- and bottom-line, and builds the foundation upon which bolder bets are incubated and launched over time.
The first step is to get Innovation and Ops people working together. If there is any formalized SixSigma, TQM, or similar program, the innovation group can provide a very significant bump in its effectiveness — simply by helping them add core innovation tools and methods to their bag of tricks.
The second step is to recruit employees across the organization to help identify hidden innovation opportunities that an Operational Excellence program is equipped to address. In any department, there are folks who would be thrilled if management asked how they think things could be made better. By employing classic innovation techniques in ideation and crowdsourcing, these voices can be brought to the fore easily, quickly, and collaboratively.
For those considering this path, we have created a quick-reference guide for building a Continuous Innovation program on the ground.