Innovation has many names. Does innovation have to be some big ground-breaking invention or could it be small, everyday improvements? And how would you trigger it? In other words; Innovation has many aspects. I have been taught that innovation means creating something new that someone buys. Another explanation is that all these small improvements you do during your work day are innovations. A third explanation would be an invention, preferably something you are willing to protect with a patent.
Does innovation mean thinking outside the box? Or maybe inside? I'd say it means both. You need new thinking but also some restrictions. I remember once I was out with our team of patent attorneys. They were happy about the offsite. We were in a beautiful place on the Swedish coastline and the sun was shining bright, no clouds on the sky. Everyone was happy. “You see Peter”, one said, “this is what we need. Time to be innovative, time for innovation”…
Do we need more time for innovation or do we need time pressure to increase innovation? I believe this contradiction is the key to develop innovation management.
We started our workshop and I asked everyone what two things they needed to be innovative. Eagerly they started writing down their answers. They produced a lot of sticky notes and one at a time they presented their notes and we put them up on the wall. After some clustering and adjustments we saw a clear picture. Two actions were imperative for innovation, and they had the same amount of votes;
- More time for innovation
- Time pressure to come up with a result
But, hey! Isn't this a contradiction? Yes and no. I think this is one of these clashes which really create new ideas and innovation. The book Extreme Toyota by Emi Osono, Norihiko Shimizu and Hirotaka Takeuchi explain the same in the Toyota Management System. How can you keep a normal situation and always follow standards whilst you continuously improve? This contradiction creates the energy needed for new innovations to prosper. If you as a manager and leader of a team can create this tension in your team, you are developing the innovation force of the team and they will surpass your wildest dreams. The book contains six years of research with access to Toyota documents, but also around 100 interviews with employees and management of the company. The authors of Extreme Toyota explain that the secret behind the success of Toyota success lays in a series of distinct paradoxes and contradictions which actively are encouraged by Toyota management.
Another time I ran a workshop with highly skilled team of system developers. We wanted to run an idea generation event with wild and crazy ideas so we asked everyone to write down 15 ideas in ten minutes. All engineers started writing the ideas they had before the workshop and they brought to get acceptance for, that was quite clear as everyone seemed to know about them directly when they were presented.
After 5 minutes I walked through the room announcing they now should be writing their 8th sticky note. And wow, did the activity level increase! With a fantastic energy we got some ideas no one had even thought about. We added those to the first set of well thought through ideas and we had a perfect list to evaluate.
What if we could develop this innovation skill through a smart management so we continuously create new ideas. By everyone and forever? Do we need more time for innovation or do we need time pressure to increase innovation? I believe this contradiction is the key to develop innovation management.
These are my learnings and believes. Does this coincide with yours? Do you have any other experiences and examples?
Transformation Office at Scania Group
Upcoming Knowledge Exchange
October 3-6, 2022 in Newport, RI
Join us to learn how you can increase your innovation speed, eliminate waste in your processes, and lead your team to new levels of productivity and pride. Meet people like yourself who are striving for innovation excellence. Learn what works for them. Share your challenges and successes. We want to exchange ideas with you, so we all learn to innovate faster.
Hear keynote from Bruce Hamilton of GBMP on “Developing your Teams to Accelerate your LPPD Innovation.” Meet Durward Sobek, co-author of the book, Lean Product and Process Development. And many others with deep expertise in lean product development. See the full program at LPPDE NA 2022.