Innovation Is as Innovation Does?


Dispatches from the Frontier: Innovation as Outcome

This story also seems like it couldn't be true, from the Harga-Blog:

I once asked a class full of senior executives whether they wanted innovation. They all said yes. When I then asked whether they wanted their direct reports to spend time developing and experimenting with new ways of doing their work, they all said no. They wanted innovation-as-outcome but not not the process.

Does your organization, regardless of what the top leaders say, reward people for coloring in between the lines?

More than rewarding “experimentation” (which is necessary for “kaizen” or continuous improvement), does your organization manage to not punish “failure?”

I've heard an expression about Toyota:

Toyota is successful because they have a high tolerance for failure.

OK, insert your own Toyota floor mat recall joke here about “failure.” That's not the type of failure that the expression is referring to.

What they mean is people following the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle. If you have a well-thought out plan, a hypothesis of how a change should help, you have to have an honest organization that allows you to 1) measure the results from the change and 2) be willing to say “no, that change wasn't really an improvement.”

Too many organizations say they want “experimentation” but then people, because of fear, do everything they can to rationalize or justify the experiment as a success, no matter what.

We need honesty, not just random acts of experimentation.

Does your organization manage to encourage, or at least not completely kill, experimentation and true kaizen?

p.s. Remember our recent discussion on the merits of Lean certification? Jeff Hajek is running a short survey on his blog and we'll report results here.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Hi Mark and friends/ followers.
    Firstly: thank you because this post plays right into my recent blogs about Hoshin management.
    My point is that Toyota uses the Hoshin management system which requires innovation processes in each of the 12 goal areas (e.g. Quality, Cost, etc). And, this is accomplished by a cross-functional approach that starts with the Vice-Presidents. This approach crushes the old "Silos". Failure of course does arise in innovation. But at Toyota you are not fired for trying. You may be fired for failing to learn.
    :) Mike Davis


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