Many companies use Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and the like for continuous improvement, but how can we push further and achieve disruptive innovation in operations? As it turns out, the best practice innovation fundamentals used to create disruptive new products work just as well for operations. To start with, we need:
- Clear Strategic Mission. A clearly defined and actionable strategy for disruptive ideas is just as critical for operations as it is for new products. I’ve heard, “We’ve got this. We already have strategic goals for cost savings in operations.” A goal is not good enough. Employees must know what types of ideas we are looking for, why this is very important, what we don’t want, and what other boundaries apply.
- Immersive Research. Instead of just pulling together the team and running some exercises from our toolbox, we need to do some immersive research in advance inside and outside our company (technology, experts, trends, internal stakeholders, customers, vendors, competitors, etc.) to fill our brains and spark ideas. Research shows we can 2x the output of big ideas by doing this research to stretch our minds beyond the norm.
- Diverse Perspectives. To push ideas further than in the past, we must diversity the ideation team - go beyond the core team to include people with different jobs, backgrounds, thinking styles, and levels within the organization. I’ve seen finance people worried they didn’t know enough about the production process to help, and production workers worried they didn’t know enough about the costs to help and on and on. Miraculously, when the diverse, cross-functional team got together, they not only created bold ideas, but quickly quantified the value and identified key issues to investigate for each idea. This would not have been possible with the core team alone.
We cannot expect to use the same processes with the same people and get bigger ideas. We must do something different. It’s been shown again and again that by just applying these 3 key elements, we can predictably achieve disruptive innovation in operations.
Collaboration and Problem Survey tools are effective and easy ways to conduct internal research prior to an ideation session for operations. If you’d like to try out these tools on one of your current initiatives, contact Lydia, and she’d be happy to help you (no cost).