Newsletter – January, 2015

On My Mind
There are many different innovation frameworks used in organizations today—none of them are right or wrong—but some are useful as Dr. George E. P. Box might have said. Last year I created an Innovation Framework consisting of three components borrowing from the “three directions” of Japanese-style Total Quality Management. “Top-Down Innovation” (“Strategic”) occurs when senior executives establish a focus for innovation thereby encouraging employees to direct their creative thinking on a particular topic. For example, “We need some creative ideas aimed at improving customer experiences.” This directs organizational attention and thinking. “Cross-Functional Innovation” (“Integrative”) occurs when new ideas are created to improve cooperation, collaboration, and/or coordination. For example, “We need some creative ideas aimed at improving collaboration between our business units.” This helps with the process of integration. “Bottom-Up Innovation” (“Day-to-Day”) occurs when “anyone, anywhere, anytime” has an idea for change that is captured, evaluated, and potentially tested. For example, “I think we can reduce order entry errors by simplifying the order entry form.” This encourages all employees to continuously create new ideas. Simply exhorting employees to “innovate” rarely leads to a sustainable system of innovation. Organizations will be further ahead if they develop capabilities around the three components of the Innovation Framework.

Interesting Stories
Another commercial airliner mysteriously vanished in Asia recently. Fortunately, parts of the wreckage were found and so there will be some form of closure. It seems odd that we can’t equip commercial airliners with an indestructable black box that provides real-time tracking capabilities during normal flight operations and in the aftermath of a catastrophe. What am I missing? The technology must exist—but is cost the barrier? Some type of innovation is necessary to fulfill this important societal need.

Company News
I will be making presentations on Big Data and Analytics for the Performance Excellence Network in February and the MN Section of the American Society for Quality in March. Details can be found on those websites in early-to-mid January. My paper titled, Quality Management and Big Data, will be available in February. I will be conducting several public seminars in 2015 including Japanese-Style Hoshin Kanri; Managing Innovation Projects; Analytics for Continuous Improvement; Continuous Improvement Green Belt; Continuous Improvement Black Belt; and Continuous Improvement Master Black Belt. The schedule will be available January 21.

Intriguing Reads
Brothers Tom Kelley and David Kelley—both leading innovation experts—co-authored an excellent book on innovation titled, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. One of the central messages of the book is that anyone can be creative and people should believe in that capacity (“creative confidence”). Their three-component framework consisting of People (Desirable), Business (Viabile), and Technical (Feasibile) is very useful. The book showcases numerous examples of successful innovations and describes several valuable innovation tools and techniques. If you were to only have a few books on innovation on your bookshelf, this book should be one of them.