Innovation vs. Efficiency? Or Innovation AND Efficiency?
An article from Businessweek provides an interesting exploration about changes that happened at 3M, where, the reporter suggests, the widespread adoption of Six Sigma has created a conflict between innovation and efficiency.
While I can certainly agree that the left-brain analytical approach to business can have a negative effect on the largely right-brain function of creativity, I do think it's helpful to explore the different kinds of innovation (which I identify in my article, provided on this website – see Articles & Resources) to see that they don't – necessarily – have to conflict. In fact, some kinds of innovation are designed through the quest for efficiency.
The Businessweek article brings up some interesting points:
- 3M measures success by the percentage of business coming from products introduced within the past five years (which used to be 1/3 and now is down to 1/4). I wonder: what other companies measure success the same way? (If you know, please comment below.)
- Does avoiding errors reduce innovation? Or does it prohibit it? Maybe it depends on your point of view. Wasn't the Post-it an error? (I embrace the views of Tom Peters, the management guru, who says that in today’s business world, companies must “Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast.") Maybe the answer is to "fail forward" as John Maxwell suggests, which is simply learning from mistakes. (Which makes them no longer mistakes, doesn't it, if you learn from them?)
- They quote Art Fry, the inventor of the Post-it note, (which, by the way, took many years to recognize as an innovation!), "You have to go through 5,000 to 6,000 raw ideas to find one successful business." Is this true? I should say – and hope – not! Certainly that process could be made more efficient!
The conclusion? You'll have to read the article. But I would like to add one thought:
They should not forget that, although cost control measures are important, especially in big companies, you can't "cost control" your way to growth, which can only come from innovation, expansion or acquisition.
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