Monday, April 16, 2007

"Rigor" can mean stiffness or intensity

We prefer the intensity definition. Intuit CEO Steve Bennett added nicely to our Six Sigma thread (without knowing it) when he used the word "rigor" to describe how his management skills - honed at GE - were applied at the Silicon Valley software maker. These comments come from the 4/16 WSJ.

In a Q&A, Bennett contends:
1. Customer-driven innovation wins consistently against technology-driven innovation.
2. Great companies have innovation and rigor; they are complementary, not in conflict.
3. Process is an enabler to achieve an outcome; it is not the desired outcome.

His point? A clear and process-driven approach to innovation makes it even more successful -- in the past few years Intuit has introduced more new products than ever in company history. What Bennett calls "strategic and operational rigor" makes it more feasible to execute on ideas that emerge.

After all, ideas without action are dreams . . . . What's on your to-do list for today?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rembrandts In YOUR Attic?

Chris Zook of Bain & Co. wrote the book "Unstoppable" and an op-ed in the WSJ on "hidden assets" that turned around Apple, GE, Nestle and others. These companies "discovered" existing products, markets or innovations but only when key players chose to pursue them. Apple built its platform on the iPod, GE tapped the strength of GE Capital and other survivors found their solutions in-house.

Nine of 10 companies that renewed themselves in the past decade used assets that had not been maximized. Zook's research found that half of the Global 500 companies since 1994 have seen their world changed by core business threats. Sounds like the situation Bristol Myers-Squibb faced when the company turned to idea management tools - details at

About half of those challenged companies used merger/bankruptcy to lose their positions. The other half made risky fundamental strategy changes to grow and survive. Stories like these are reminders that species have to adapt to survive. After all, Nokia began as a wood/paper company. . . so cell phones and snow tires took it a long way from its roots (insert groan here).

Monday, April 09, 2007

Six Sigma Improves Innovation

Those of you puzzling over how to combine Six Sigma quality initiatives with the creativity of innovation might consider a May 10 webinar by Bob Carter, a senior consultant at Raytheon USA. (Shameless plug) His success at building teams of diverse thinkers by merging the science of engineering with the free-thinking creativity of problem-solving is worth every penny (or Euros or quid).

“Process and methodology is more important than results to many Six Sigma people. But innovation relies on variation – precisely what Six Sigma is supposed to remove,” he says. “One key is to adapt the tools to the problems and not vice versa.” After all, he warns, focusing too closely on sales or other metrics can drive your company to copy others and, potentially, move you farther away from goals or customers.

Bob was a featured speaker at recent Imaginatik Research master session that explored how Six Sigma can strengthen idea management to build a stronger innovation platform. Taking DMAIC process steps and applying them to production, improvement and deployment of ideas can make any organization a hothouse for innovation. Stay tuned for more in the next Imaginatik Research newsletter.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Customers Determine Innovation

A tiny item in the April 3 WSJ on Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn offers a big insight on the future of vehicles and the current 'green energy' movement. Asked about how Nissan plans to compete with the diesel, gas/electric hybrid or or hydrogen-powered engines -- especially given Toyota and Honda's leadership -- Ghosn replied "At the end, we don't decide, the customers decide."

Despite all the technology promise, if the buyer doesn't buy it, there's a fundamental problem. The lesson is that consumer education (marketing) and plenty of other 'things' have to change for innovation to succeed over the status quo. Some are external and beyond your control (in this case gasoline prices, ecological concerns) but the window of opportunity has to be open. Then you can create the right circumstances and be ready to capitalize.

What are you driving at? And what sort of engine does it have?

A Conversation Starter?

As if you don't have enough reading with blogs, Wikis, newsletters, books and magazines, here's another competitor for your limited time and attention: Harvard Business School Publishing hopes to capture eyeballs and minds by sparking online exchanges with influential business thinkers. Tom Davenport and Larry Prusak are among the first and a "conversation starter" is designed to spark a response.

Just remember where you heard of it and c'mon back here for deep thoughts. For many of us, it's as close to the hallowed halls of Harvard as we'll get.