Stage 1 – Where are we now?
Understand where you are today. Innovation is more likely to happen and be noticed in an environment where:
- There are quality methods in place to measure performance
- Your processes are in control so you can identify a change in performance
- You can attribute a change correctly, good or bad…
- You have data and analysis to inform decisions
In this stage, use quality tools such as Pareto charts, control charts or flowcharts to help gather useful data to understand the process, your customers, your competitors, market trends, and any other data that will support the business case for the work. This information will help you support the context of the innovation, and provide useful insights to help define the overall goal of the innovation.
Stage 2 – Where are we going?
Agree on which type of innovation you are working on for each project. Break down the overall goal for the innovation into practical objectives. This will help focus the innovation.
Stage 3 – How are we going to get there?
Having established what you are aiming for, you are now in a great position to select the appropriate method/s for the innovation.
Think about using a quality improvement methodology such as structured problem solving or Lean Six Sigma to provide the overall structure.
Creative thinking methods work well here. If you are looking to extend an existing product range or service, quality methods such as TRIZ, structured idea generation, or Lateral Thinking are all great methods for evolving existing scenarios.
Create an environment and a culture in which you can notice a change, where you ‘learn to see’ what is happening in your system.
Quality tools such as Pareto diagrams, control charts, histograms, and stratification will aid you in noticing an opportunity and/or change. Continuous improvement methods will help you gather other opportunities that can be taken further to innovate products, services or processes.
By its very nature, it’s the big investment; it requires a dedicated programme, and a consistent quality method such as Design for Six Sigma, founded on PDSA with goals, roles, and responsibilities clearly articulated and agreed upon. Align the work to your organisation’s strategy – your chances of success are increased when you have leadership commitment. And, as in all forms of innovation, you must be prepared to take risks and fail.
These are not concepts typically embraced by organisations, but remember – it took James Dyson 5,127 attempts to create the bagless vacuum and Thomas Edison 50,000 experiments to develop the battery!
Stage 4 – How are we going to make it stick?
Innovation is only part of the equation. On its own, it’s no more than a great idea. Bring your creativity to life in a sustainable way through a robust implementation process.
Quality methods such as Lean Six Sigma have implementation built into the method. In other situations, planning implementation and integrating into daily process management are required.