||Insourcing Innovation -- Preface
We wrote this book because most business leaders are dissatisfied with the ability of their companies to innovate. Companies consistently pour money into R&D, yet inconsistently achieve their innovation objectives. In fact, no other aspect of business is as frustrating and out of control as innovation. At the same time, innovation is core and central to business success.
This is the paradox we address in Insourcing Innovation: so much touting of the need for breakthrough, yet so little knowledge about how it happens. The paradox exists because most people who are responsible for innovation are simply too smart for their own good. With all their experience, they still struggle to generate high quality, high density, and high velocity breakthroughs.
TRIZ, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, is a necessary supplement to the power of your company’s best minds. It doesn’t replace the need for smart people, just as a method like Six Sigma doesn’t replace that need. But like Six Sigma, TRIZ comes into play as a structured system for accomplishing objectives the best people can’t accomplish no matter how many you have in your company or how smart they are.
Thought leaders, CEOs, consultants, and scientists alike are calling for innovation that’s more measurable, reliable, predictable, streamlined, and effective in essence, better and faster. The answers to the call range from appointing an innovation leader to establishing a better innovation process. Some have called for a better alignment of all innovation success factors: people, process, leadership, creativity, culture, investment. Others have suggested various programs to follow, most, if not all, of which consist of a certain set of principles and guidelines. As innovation experts, we have our own such set, and you discover more about it in this book.
But mostly what you get in this book is a hardened methodology for making innovation more manageable, controllable, and profitable. For every dollar you spend on innovation, you want a dollar back, and a whole lot more. You want to safeguard and optimize your investment in innovation, and the best way to do this is to make it as turnkey as possible. Our book discusses why most of the so-called “methods” are really just guided brainstorming sessions that don’t get inventors out of their own mental boxes, even though they claim to do so.
This is why most current methods fail. They’re grounded in psychological inertia and divergent thinking. The TRIZ methodology asserts that every innovation objective has a finite set of possible solutions, given constraints. The way to discover these solutions is to converge on them quickly and reliably through a universal pathway everyone can learn and understand. Why not teach your brightest and best how to travel this pathway, and why not have them teach it to others?
This is the central theme of our book: The way to increase your company’s innovation value proposition is to take control of it yourself, not to outsource it. Although there are potential benefits to outsourcing innovation for some companies under the best circumstances, we don’t accept this view as viable in the long-term picture of business. Innovation, like quality improvement, is a skill you want as many people as possible to master.
Lest we be cavalier, this is not a new idea. Innovation expert Gary Hamel has said that there are tools, processes, and systems for driving innovation that almost anyone can learn. Hamel has called for a “mobilization and monetization of the imagination of every employee” in the style of how Toyota realized a positive ROI by investing in the problem-solving skills of every employee.
Basically, innovation isn’t and shouldn’t be a sometimes thing, driven by the bright few and held back by the average many. Rather, innovation should be an all-the-time thing driven by trained people in every part of the organization. With such collective momentum, an organization breaks the stronghold of its own inertia and creates a true force of continuous evolution.
Specifically, Insourcing Innovation is organized into the following four parts:
• Part One provides a simple framework for thinking about business excellence, a historical viewpoint of management thinking and practice, a rationale for implementing structured innovation, and the case for why TRIZ is a world-class method for achieving perpetual innovation with existing resources.
• Part Two covers the tactical aspects of TRIZ, with a central focus on the TRIZ methodology (DMASI) and its primary constructs, techniques, and components. Part Two also provides several implementation case examples, including an in-depth breakdown of how TRIZ was used to create an innovative self-heating beverage container.
• Part Three transitions from the tactical to the strategic aspects of structured innovation (TRIZ), which show you that no single innovation can stand alone. All tap into one or more of eight evolutionary forces to become what they are. Part Three describes these forces along with related anecdotes and examples.
• Part Four discusses how structured innovation is part of the larger system of “total performance excellence.” It shows how other key aspects of business excellence enable structured innovation, and at the same time are enabled by structured innovation. Part Four looks at these aspects and shows how they’re related.
Clearly, it’s time to shine more light on the path of innovation to define it and call it out, unequivocally, like the Yellow Brick Road. Perhaps business leaders have enough innovation hindsight and need more innovation foresight. Maybe it’s time to make structured innovation a core competency and quit the habit of noticing how much sense innovation makes . . . after it happens.
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