innovationskraft2013Yesterday, I was one of around 120 attendees at a half-day innovation conference in Gothenburg termed Innovationskraft. A surprisingly wide range of people were represented, including leaders from manufacturing and automotive industry, academics, lawyers, consultants and at least one behavioural scientist. And the meeting was free!

The theme for the day was structured innovation. We got to hear case studies about mobile phone development, global sustainability and development of portable fuel cells. For me, one of the most striking stories came from Jean Bülow at Avalon Innovation. He explained that leadership teams at their client companies typically rank innovation as critically important and, wackily, score it as 11 out of 10. However, it’s also somewhat rare that these same companies have any structured process in place around innovation, hoping rather than creativity will be sufficient.

If I try to distill the important principles that came of the day, it comes down to a few things:

  • Leadership must be on board, demand innovation and set a goal that means something to everyone in the organization.
  • Truly understand what your customer is trying to do. This is, of course, a much deeper understanding than asking them what they want!
  • Use a structured process for innovation. There are a bunch available – maybe it doesn’t even matter which one you choose.

When I look at this from a Lean Sigma perspective, I see tremendous commonality at the level of these principles between Lean and Innovation, probably against the prejudices of many of the delegates yesterday.

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