What better subject matter for our new blog layout than innovation? This post is by Dr. Domenico Lepore, an international expert on systems thinking for management. Together with Oded Cohen he developed the Decalogue Management Methodology, combining the management philosophy of the founding father of Quality, W. Edwards Deming, with the Theory of Constraints.
Innovation as a buzzword
There are certain words that can define a moment in history. Sometimes these words can brand a whole generation and inspire the work of herds of marketing professionals. Most certainly, innovation is such a word for our current times.
Whether we use innovation as a label for something that radically revolutionizes the way we live (thank you Mr. Jobs), or simply for the way we remove dust from our homes (thank you Mr. Dyson), innovation seems the key word to promote something that has to “be on the scene” (thank you Mr. Brown, get up, get on up).
Putting to one side the relentless pseudo-creative efforts of the spin-doctors, innovation does play a critical role in supporting the prosperity of every industry and, sadly, there are many misconceptions about it.
Does government money guarantee innovation?
Recently, the Canadian government has called into question the ability of the five billion dollars a year it distributes to companies to promote innovation to actually generate results. Simply put: showering money on industries to foster innovation does not seem to translate into tangible economic results. While pundits debate the role that governments and local authorities should have in the promotion of innovation, we have to accept that innovation is not an option. Innovation is at the very heart of the prosperity of any country and an influential governmental role is therefore critical.
The key question then becomes, which is the correct role for a government to play to achieve maximum benefit from the investment of public money?
An equally relevant question should be: what exactly do we mean when we talk about innovation and how can we measure it?
Suggested Steps Towards Prosperous Innovation
Words are the very fabric with which we create the world and define the meaning (and the meaningfulness) of our reality; there are several steps we need to take in order to unleash the power of the word “Innovation”.
Step One: Create an Operational Definition
An operational definition puts communicable meaning into a concept. It gives people other than the definer the ability to independently measure or test the concept in question. It allows us to share it with others in a way that it can be acted upon. No communicable meaning of innovation exists until it is expressed in terms, for instance, of sampling, test and criteria. We must define what we mean by innovation operationally. In other words, the only communicable meaning of innovation is the record of what happens on application of a specified test.
Perhaps an example can help: every time Apple releases a new model of iPhone a flock of business commentators get busy debating whether the new iPhone is, or is not, an innovation. Meanwhile, Apple sells millions of them. What is the test that validates an innovation for a for-profit company? Sales and customer satisfaction, right? How many complainers have you seen among Apple users lately? Have you had a look at Apple’s balance sheet? The proof of the (apple) pudding is in the eating.
In subsequent posts we’ll be suggesting some further steps for Innovation. We will also look at the role of Leadership and Quality. We need to assess how investment can best be utilized to guarantee return and sustainability. Our collective futures depend on it.
Sign up to our blog here and shift your thinking towards broader, systemic possibilities for yourself and your organization.
About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management, founded by Dr. Domenico Lepore. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York. Angela’s new business novel+ website The Human Constraint looks at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation.