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The Democratization Of Innovation
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One of the key trends in implementing innovation is the realization that innovation is not the exclusive preserve of a few PhDs working in R&D labs or product management teams. Innovation applies to all aspects of business including the manufacturing, post-sales customer support and internal support functions of an organization.
The democratization of innovation has challenged several assumptions on how staff can generate innovative solutions to daily problems. The long established notion on innovation and innovative staff is centered on premise of their possessing higher I.Q. Or Intellectual Quotient (refer box: Hard Work or Smart Work).
Hard Work or Smart Work
Thomas Edison a distinguished inventor was well known for his recipe for innovation: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.
Soon giant R&D labs sprung up manned by thousands of technicians adopting Edison’s philosophy of carrying out thousands of simultaneous trials in the hope of discovering a new phenomenon.
The great inventor Nikolai Tesla’s pertinent observation sums up the woes of adopting Edison’s approach towards product design or problem solving:
“If Edison had the task to find a needle in a haystack he would not lose time determining the most probable location of it. He would immediately with the diligence of a bee begin picking up straw after straw until he found the object of his search. His methods were very inefficient. He would spend a lot of time and energy reaching nothing unless luck was with him in the beginning. It was sad watching him work knowing that just a little theoretical knowledge and a few calculations could save him at least 30 per cent of his time. He despised education from books and especially the knowledge of mathematics trusting completely to his inventive intuition and American commonsense.”
Edison’s expensive and wasteful approach soon became evident to the organizations supporting those giant R&D labs and these were soon replaced with efficient and productive ways.
The thinking skills of staff represent the heart of an organization. In the race for differentiation it is a choice of borrowing best practices from competition or other sources versus creating next practices. Thinking staff provide the sustainable edge by providing elegant solutions to situations for which there are no pre-scripted or known solutions.
Management has realized the need for a systematic framework for developing specific skills and these skills apply as much to staff working in product management, R&D as they do to the rest of the organization. As the CEO of a leading FMCG observed, “We have a lot of sleeping beauties (concepts) lying in our labs. The challenge is how to awaken those sleeping beauties.”
So is there a systematic framework that staff can learn to develop their thinking skills?
TRIZ (Russian acronym for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) has defined the framework for developing the core skills of strong innovators. Seven of those core skills are shown in the image.
Many organizations such as Intel, GE, P&G, Samsung, Hyundai, Pepsico, Cognizant and similar others have successfully applied the concepts to create a systematic framework for innovation management in product development as well as operational excellence.
Organizations that have systematically invested in developing the skills of their staff and linking to real world application have reaped the benefits through their idea management and knowledge management initiatives resulting in global benchmarks of more than 64 implemented ideas per employee over a 12 month period yielding benefits running into several millions of dollars.
Aditya Bhalla is Innovation Practice Head at QAI Global Services and President of TRIZ Asia Forum.. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also for more info about TRIZ Training & PMP Training etc Visit us at:- www.qaiglobalinstitute.com
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