Innovation and continuous improvement

Promote innovation to strengthen your company.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, innovation is a new idea, method, device, or novelty. It is also the introduction of something new.  In this competitive world, innovation is crucial to the success of any organization.  Therefore, one way to strengthen the company is to promote innovation.  

Innovation and the company culture

An article in Harvard Business Review describes the behaviors exhibit by the most innovative organizations. Scott D. Anthony, Paul Cobban, Rahul Nair, and Natalie Painchaud are the authors of that piece.   The article, Breaking Down the Barriers to Innovation, explains them in detail.  Those behaviors are the following.

  1. Always assume there is a better way to do things. 
  2. They focus on deeply understanding customers’ stated and unstated needs and desires. 
  3. Collaborate across and beyond the organization, actively cross-pollinating. 
  4. Recognize that success requires experimentation, rapid iteration, and frequent failure. 
  5. They empower people to take risks, voice dissenting opinions and seek needed resources.

These five actions or attitudes are aligned with a continuous improvement culture.  

Innovation in a continuous improvement culture

A tenet of continuous improvement is to respect the people.  One way is by providing the environment and opportunities to learn new skills.  In other words, the team is empowered to improve their workplace. They would do it through innovation and continuous improvement.  

The ultimate goal of continuous improvement is perfection.  That is to say that you always assume that there is another way to do things. Precisely, that is the first behavior in the article.  Other behaviors listed are collaboration, seeking improvements through experimentation, and learning from mistakes. All of them are part of a continuous improvement environment.

One of the CI principles is customer value.  The customer is who defines value.  Value definition is a critical piece to start your continuous improvement quest. For instance, you will use it to classify each process as value-added or non-value-added. Moreover, you need to understand it to focus your innovation efforts on the right place  

A CI culture is people-based. The focus is to create an environment that promotes learning and growth. When the company is mature enough, team members do not have to deal with repetitive problems. Therefore they don’t have to deal with the frustration that comes with them either.  A mind free of work concerns and frustration is a mind ready to create and innovate!