A successful innovator can lead their industry. Sometimes an Innovation is obvious such as a metal fence post (exists).  Other times, it is not so obvious such as a quarter turn air pump hookup for tire inflation (does not exist).  Often successful Innovators import a concept from one industry to another.  All innovators think outside the box.

Everyone can think of some innovative experts, but sometimes you don’t really know what the innovation was and where it came from. Let’s look at a few models.

Apple iPhone

Apple did not invent the phone. They added capabilities to something that already existed. They innovated on how an individual connects with their phone. Since a phone is used to perform vocal communication couldn’t you also talk to the phone? That’s where Siri came from.


Ford was credited with the wonderful innovation of an assembly line. He did not invent the assembly line, he analogized the movement of meat in the meat meatpacking industry from one butcher to the next as moving an automobile from one assembly worker to the next. But that was not his greatest innovation.

Prior to Ford, automobile manufacturing used craft-production techniques. These companies used skilled labor to mate non-conforming parts together. There were multiple good reasons that they did this however, Ford understood that this was an inhibition to mass production. Ford’s innovation was to apply a standard gauge to the measurement of all parts and the standardization of automobile parts, such that it did not take a skilled laborer to mate parts to an automobile. This innovation enabled the assembly line.

Toyota – A Successful Innovator on Many Levels

Toyota is a very successful innovator. This car company was constrained by its position in the world at the time it started. Raw materials were extremely expensive which led to a great expense in waste they could not afford. This constraint led to the innovation of the andon system that lead to Lean Production.  andon has the operator stop the process if a defect is detected. This eradicated defects from the assembly line. Lean Production is an end to end pull system that builds to order, rather than build to forecast which is Mass Production. Lean Six Sigma not only decrease’s waste but it increases quality and decreases cost. Toyota is now the largest car manufacturer in the world.

Some of Toyota’s Innovations are on display here. Press the button to find some of the innovations that they have brought to the world:

Tesla Motors

The large automobile manufacturers said an electric car would never work. Their innovation blinders only let them focus on currently existing battery capabilities. Tesla looked wider than current batteries.  To control this strategic Innovation, Tesla built their own battery factory. He expects over a 30% battery cost reduction by using this new factory.


Amazon was a successful innovator but the innovation was logical. This innovation was a merger of two things. First, it was a look at the Internet and what that connected technology could do for a business and second, it was selling books over this medium. Now Amazon sells:

  •  CDs and DVDs
  • e-books
  • streamed content
  • all kinds of other goods and services

An Innovation is a concept the goes into production.  A concept is an idea that may or may not become an Innovation.  What concepts are sitting in the minds of your employees that are also on the doorstep of an Innovation today?

In Conclusion

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As an Aside

If you want to build your system using the tools of the Toyota Production System click on the button to a website that will take you there: