If you are looking for Innovation, try these Innovation Methods. To enable a strategic advantage, then you need a program populated with a suite of Innovations. You can certainly use Silicon Valley Innovation methodologies within this program however the methodology is not designed to handle companies that produce a sweet of innovations. These companies will have innovations in a lifecycle and will make sure that they have enough innovations in each sections of the lifecycle.

The best definition of Innovation so far is from the Malcolm Baldrige Excellence Framework criteria for performance excellence: “Innovation means making meaningful change to improve your organization’s products, services, programs, processes, operations, and business model with the purpose of creating new value for stakeholders.”

The Innovation Matrix

This shows a trade-off between the Problem Definition and the Domain Definition. Problem definition refers to how well you understand the challenge you’re trying to innovate in the ease of the innovation path. Domain definition refers to the impact of the innovation on the industry. For example, Sustaining Innovation may refer to continually improving laundry detergent where as Disruptive Innovation may refer to the new method of rolling off a sheet of steel formed into a gutter from a truck in front of your house rather than purchasing and assembling pre-cut lengths. Breakthrough innovation is just what it sounds like. It is moving past a stopping point. For instance, Lean Production was a breakthrough innovation that ultimately minimized production waste. Basic research is very interesting because it is not goal directed yet, most of the important innovations and products have come from basic research.

The Four Innovation Methods:

These four innovation strategies are based on the scope of the team working together to accomplish the innovations. Most companies focus on Closed but will also use Open sources since they have become so plentiful. It’s possible that you don’t either have the time or the in-house knowledge to perform the innovation work independently then it might make sense to become collaborative. The most collaborative innovation strategy is called Co-Innovation in which partners work together collectively to produce the innovation. These are also Innovation Methods:

  • Closed – Internal and Intellectual property focused
  • Collaborative – Working with partners such as suppliers
  • Open – Sources and concepts come from open sources
  • Co-Innovation – Work with a partner

An example of the DuPont companies process stages by phase, estimated revenue, and type of product:

Develop your Innovation Method:

  • Build a pipeline,
  • Manage a program,
  • Set strategic direction
  • Create alignment
  • Build commitment

Building a Pipeline

If innovation is a key part of your competitive strategy than it is a much bigger effort than Silicon Valley Innovation. First you start by using innovation methods to build a pipeline. The pipeline requires a generator of ideas. One way that I found to come up with ideas, at least for brainstorming, is to look what happens in the physical world we existed. I give you a couple of examples. For example, maybe you’re a paint company that needs to innovate and you’re looking for ideas on how to create an undercarriage coating that will repair itself. I would suggest that that company study an abalone. An abalone is constantly expanding and repairing its shell as it grows. Wouldn’t it be great to have a coating for the undercarriage of your car that was self-correcting?

How about if you were a city and you were trying to figure out how to increase the flow of traffic. Sometimes the answer to the question might be right at your feet. Look down some time and see how fast and densely ants travel. Do they have accidents or speed limits. There are lots of ideas for how we could do things better that simply can come from our own world.

Manage a Program

Managing an innovation program will always be a challenge because a pipeline will never be evenly filled.

Set Strategic Direction

Strategic direction means that it is important for innovative ideas that are not random but pointed in a business benefiting direction. You may need to innovate to make a faster ship, or a more secure communication system. The innovation ideas need to move you in a business benefiting direction.

Create Alignment

Alignment is critical for success and is a challenge to attain. Above all this means aligning innovation capability with business strategy with an agreed time-frame.

Build Commitment

Finally, Build Commitment means committing to the effort and demonstrating that commitment. Business must have a strategic need for innovation and consequently the innovation team needs to understand what that strategic need is. There must be very strong alignment between the business strategy and those that are going to execute the strategy. The alignment needs to be strong.

In Conclusion

Taiichi Ohno was a Japanese engineer with a very clear vision and a strong understanding of the path to that vision. He had a significant business challenge which was firstly to produce a product with a minimum amount of pulled aside auto defects. At the time this was happening it was common thinking that you never stop an assembly line.

So he was in a dilemma and decided that it was more important to eliminate defects than stop an assembly line. This took guts and vision. So Mr. Ohno decided to forge ahead with his idea of eliminating defects. He required everyone on the assembly line to stop the assembly line if they detected a defect. They would then go and determine the source of the defect and correct that, and restart the assembly line. You can imagine the pressure he was under. But as a lot of time passed slowly the number of defects detected started to go down.

The process Toyota went through finally saw fruit as quality improved and much less car parts were pulled aside as failures. I’ll give you another example of this. In the early 70s Toyota and GM combined to produce a car at NUMMI in Fremont California. When they got together to design the plant Toyota requested 1% of the plant floor as space needed to pull off defective parts. GM requested 17% of the plant for pulling off defective parts. They compromised at 8%. If GM hadn’t had so much hubris they would’ve gone with 1% and let Toyota show them how they could do that.