innovation

Kaizen Culture

Kaizen Culture

Kaizen is a Japanese term typically translated to continuous improvement that covers the processes and theory for ongoing improvements. The theory (and term) was introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai in his legendary book, Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success. Imai outlined the following principles of kaizen:

  • Good processes bring good results

  • Go see for yourself to grasp the current situation

  • Speak with data, manage by facts

  • Take action to contain and correct root causes of problems

  • Work as a team

  • Kaizen is everybody’s business

Guerilla Tactics for Business

Guerilla Tactics for Business

Guerrilla warfare is typically performed by a small force battling a larger, more highly equipped enemy. Guerrilla forces are typically comprised of small units that employ continuous raids, ambushes, and attacks on opponent’s weaknesses to put ongoing pressure on the larger force (most often psychological pressure to wear-down morale). In addition, the supports of local populations help sustain the smaller force and provide safety. Several examples of a guerrilla force succeeding against a much larger opponent are the Chinese Civil War, the Vietcong against the French and U.S., Castro’s Cuban revolution, the Sandista revolution, and jihadists fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Business leaders should learn and adapt guerilla tactics to their sales and marketing efforts to keep competitor off-balanced and customers continually excited about new, surprise offerings.

Reverse Brainstorming

Reverse Brainstorming

When problems arise there are great tools to attack them, specifically root-cause analysis and DMAIC. There are also excellent tools to stimulate creativity to develop new products, improve current products, and build innovative solutions. An excellent technique to help solve tough problems is Reverse Brainstorming.

The Future of Transportation

The Future of Transportation

In 2016 Wired magazine had several excellent articles on the future of transportation. The move towards electric vehicles (EV), automation, and the sharing economy is extremely interesting to watch as the major automakers figure out how to keep selling millions of cars when most millennials don’t care about owning one. And as we examine the overall automobile transportation sector it is filled with waste (our Lean armies should be having a field day with all the opportunities).

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0

The rise of new technologies is changing traditional industries. As new trends gain momentum – VR, IoT, automation, robotics – traditional businesses are applying new technology to traditionally un-sexy products. From medium-sized manufacturing firms in Germany to family-owned private manufacturers in the Midwest, small to medium sized companies are out-innovating larger incumbents. Industry 4.0 is gaining steam and being adopted by the least-likely industries, far away from Silicon Valley. Industries from tractors, hand-tools, and front-end loaders are adopting new technologies to meet the needs of changing customers.

The Price of Innovation

The Price of Innovation

The business world is a chaotic and turbulent place. The pace of innovation is expanding. New technologies are changing the face of traditional industries and introducing new, disruptive competitors. The media continually focuses on the benefits of automation, virtual reality (VR), and other new and exciting ways business will change in the near future. What are missing are the consequences of new technologies and innovation. Leaders need to understand short and long-term disruptions to current business practices.

Lyft and The Art of War

Lyft and The Art of War

I wrote this article in 2016 but it still rings true. You must take advantage of opportunities, especially when your competitor is losing public confidence. You must take advantage of opportunities quickly, and focus on attacking your competitor’s strengths. It will be interesting to see how Lyft fares in the future of ride sharing.

Complacency Kills Innovation

Complacency Kills Innovation

A past article in the Wall Street Journal by John Gapper, “Norway’s oil wealth swamps innovation” provides an excellent example of how complacency can kill innovation. Gapper outlined how oil wealth has created a country that has lacked true national crisis. Due to affluence from oil, Norway has a gross domestic product per individual of $75,000, just behind Switzerland (the top GDP country in the world). The oil-funded wealth has resulted in limited shocks to the Norwegian economy and a strong social buffer for citizens. These “soft” times are shaky as oil prices have declined from record highs.

Improving Innovation

Improving Innovation

Some leaders and academics feel that R&D is currently much more difficult than in the past – most good ideas are already developed and the increase in additional scientists have diminished returns (more scientists, less innovations). Accurate or not, Knott (and myself) feel that another argument that explains the decline of innovation (if it exists) is that companies are just not very good at innovation. Knott studied publicly traded company financials and found that industry innovation had declined; however, corporate innovation was strong, as new industries were created.