Innovation is not always about a sexy new product. Quite often innovations actually go unmentioned to the outside world because they are internal system innovations. Customers may not see them, but they keep an organization competitive.
Now before reading further, I want to clarify a distinct difference here. Innovating a system or process is not the same thing as process improvement. System innovation is about reinventing the system to make a fundamental change. Process improvement is about making the existing system better. Both are important, but they are not the same. To learn more, check out our Continuous Improvement VS Innovation Webinar
Next time you are feeling frustrated, take a step back and look at the process you are currently following. Ask yourself “Why do we do it this way?” If your only response is “Because we’ve always done it this way,” then it may be time to consider reinventing the way you work.
Now let’s look at a famous example of a system innovation.
Henry Ford’s assembly line
The original process involved the employees moving from station to station to get the work done. The car would remain in place as it was being built and employees with various jobs would take turns working on the cars. This involved bringing their tools along with them from station to station etc.
There was likely some process improvement going on there to make the existing process more efficient; optimizing the stations, sharing tools and maybe standardizing some fasteners, helping employees speed up their time moving between stations etc. Don’t get me wrong, those improvements were important. But process improvement alone never would have revolutionized the assembly line.
Henry Ford reinvented the assembly line process. Employees would now stay at their stations and the product would be moved to them. This didn’t improve how the existing system worked, this was a game changing shift in how to manufacture a product.
The Ford plant had a process problem and it was solved with innovation. Today automation is once again making a shift, but the concept of the product moving through remains the same.
So, what should you do?
Start with a Quick-win.
Think about a process that you are having trouble with at work. Have you been making a broken process faster? Perhaps it is time to reinvent it entirely.
1) Write down the ideal end state. What do you wish was the outcome of the system?
2) Then start writing down what you would do if you had no constraints.
3) Next start adding in your existing constraints and reinvent how your new system could look.
System innovation will create value for internal “customers” such as employees and managers. It can also however create value for partners and the customers who purchase from you, depending on the process you are working on.
System innovation carries less brand risk. When implementing a system innovation, you shouldn’t experience any customer resistance. They will just carry on as they always have. System innovation does however carry risk from an internal perspective. Depending on the degree of employees affected by a system innovation, some change management might be required. It is also crucial to keep open communication to ease any employee concerns. See our Leading Change Webinar.
How should you measure the outcome of a system innovation?
Here are some Metrics to consider:
• Cost reduction
• Processing time/efficiency
• Reduction in complexity
• Improved value
• Improved margins
Innovating your systems isn’t easy, but with the right tools it can be simple. Learn more about inVision’s approach to Innovation here.