How Should Your Company Pursue and Achieve Innovation?

This past April, Michael Parent published a book entitled The Lean Innovation Cycle: A Multi-Disciplinary Framework for Designing Value with Lean and Human-Centered Design, which addresses what many companies are facing regarding pursuing innovation. His book addresses these concerns by introducing a new multidisciplinary framework for both thinking about and pursuing innovation. By taking key concepts from the quality management practices of Lean and Six Sigma, the framework augments these tools and disciplines by incorporating other problem-solving and design techniques, including Human-Centered Design. The result is a view of innovation that many business leaders will find fits nicely into their existing paradigm of strategy and operational discipline.

When I recently spoke with Michael, I asked him: “How should companies pursue and achieve innovation now?” Here is his complete answer:

Innovation seems to be on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Search social media and you’ll find an ethos of innovation behind every post. But the popularity of innovation and entrepreneurial thinking on social media has done damage to how businesses and industry incumbents should think about and pursue innovation. Especially in a world buffeted by global disruptions – chip shortages, inflation, supply chain issues, pandemics – just to name a few, companies need to have a greater understanding of what role innovation plays in their business and the different ways they adapt to a dynamic organizational landscape.

Regarding innovation, the biggest opportunities for businesses are to pursue an innovative approach styled after the principles of Quality Management. Organizations can mitigate their risks of disruption by holistically evaluating their existing processes, and shoring up gaps that put them in jeopardy. It might not be sexy, but improving supply chain reliability, capability, and in-process quality has enumerable benefits for most businesses, from increasing profit margin, to reducing expenses, to driving towards operational consistency across their entire value chain.

Equally important is how businesses should avoid pursuing innovation. Generally speaking, if you’re anything but a new start-up business, you should stay away from grandiose ideas of disruptive innovation and industry-altering advancements. These promise exceedingly high profits and growth but fail to materialize due to excruciatingly low chances of success, high resource demands, and even internal organizational disruption to the existing business.

A business incumbent has already been successful in their industry. Rather than abandoning the history and tradition of the firm through radical, disruptive innovation, a business ought to re-evaluate its existing value propositions through the lens of a fresh perspective. Amidst global disruptions that have mainly affected business operations (and left the products and marketing themselves untouched) the principles of quality management, Lean, and Six Sigma is an excellent framework to begin this endeavor.

What do you think of Michael’s perspective? What role does innovation play in your company? How is your company pursuing innovation? What have been the pitfalls?