If Lean Innovation is to become part of the new business norm, then why is that so many companies attempt to emulate what others have done?  Innovation itself implies a sense of newness or differentiation from what was or is.  It seems that “copy cats” are simply looking for the easy way out and call themselves lean in the process.

Duplicating successes from others will at least make you as strong as your competitor, but it takes true innovation to define the next leading edge “method” or technology.  Perhaps integrating the established, well defined, and most importantly – PROVEN – is a good starting point, but the greater challenge is understanding the reasons driving these current systems and embracing the culture and lean mindset that drove these changes so we can take them further.

Why did Inventory Control seem to stop with KanBan?  Why do improvement and quality initiatives start and stop at Six-Sigma?  There is always a better way and it doesn’t have to be more complicated than its predecessor.  Sometimes the simplest of innovations prove to be the most valuable and easiest to implement.

Lean Objectives will likely remain constant, at least for a time, and should be an integral part of your overall business planning process and strategy.  We suggest that the opportunity to separate yourself from the competition is the approach or method chosen to overcome the same challenges they are facing.

Identifying the true root cause of any current situation is vital to ensuring the real solution is or will be implemented.  It seems that most companies identify two types of core tasks:  routine and problem solving.  We would strongly suggest that another worthwhile effort is to review those current processes that are working and attempting to understand why.  A lot can be learned from past or current successes as well.

Before paying a visit to “GE” or “Toyota”, understand the basic premise of their success.  They were faced with a problem that other companies didn’t have and they invented a solution to overcome those challenges.  The new “methods” not only worked, but proved to be even better than the existing systems that were in place.

Their success also relied on having a firm grasp of the real problem.  They understood what needed to be accomplished, they just didn’t have the “HOW to do it”.  This is the moment of truth for Lean Innovation.  Having the processes in place that allow solutions to be developed that not only solve the problem but are robust enough as well to provide even a competitive edge.

Innovation doesn’t always mean new products or technologies, it can simply be a different method or system for accomplishing the basic day to day tasks at hand.  Lean applies to the entire organization (system wide), so don’t forget about the method or approach and the who, what, where, when, and why of what we do.

We would strongly suggest, that eliminating complexity from any system will yield greater returns than you would imagine possible.  People love simplicity, keeping in mind that perception is a matter of perspective.

Until next time – Stay Lean.

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