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Jim Huntzinger

Jim Huntzinger: Innovation, The Scientific Method

By Jim Huntzinger, - Last updated: Sunday, May 16, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

I see applying lean and innovation as one in the same.

While innovation seem to be commonly thought of spontaneously emerging from some mad scientist-type locked in some secret lab somewhere, most innovation actually comes from a much more mundane source.  And in a lean environment it certainly does come from a common source.  And this source is operators, supervisors, engineers, and managers.

Since innovation is most often an evolutionary and iterative process, it is critical to have a structure which, not only helps people to behave and think in this manner, but one that also gives them the infrastructure to physically manifest ideas.  A true lean enterprise helps to achieve both of these needs.  Mark Graban, Art Smalley and Steve Spear discuss this notion in their messages.

The process and practice of daily kaizen (standard work, TWI, team and group leader structure, etc.) all create an environment which yields behavior and thinking patterns (think of Mike Rother’s Kata model) which allows for people to absorb (observation, gather data, analyze) information, weigh ideas (analyze, compare and contrast, comprehend), and try (implement, experiment, imagine) them out, and reflect (evaluate, re-configure, discuss) on the results.  This is the source of most innovation, whether it is small innovations – as in daily kaizens – or large process or product innovation.

From my own experience, when we (it was usually worked out with several of us) “finally” achieved something innovative, it was a result of: time, experience, trial and error, stolen ideas, persistence, discussions, disagreement and agreement, step-learning, and many other aspects.

Basically, as I have described above, it was some version of PDCA – the scientific method.

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