As innovation emerges as a new organizational priority and the field is being developed, what guidepost messages should we leave today to inspire those working in the future to develop better tools, methods and programs?
Some 30 years ago, W. Edwards Deming wrote “Out of the Crisis” which established many of the basic principles for the field of quality upon which current ISO standards and six sigma programs are built. “Reducing variation” in processes was a theme of Deming’s work. The simple but insightful term served as a guidepost message for others working after him as it focused efforts and triggered new developments in continuous improvement, process capability and lean manufacturing.
Deconstructing “Value”: Creating Versus Delivering
A central theme of innovation is value. All activities are centered around the concept of identifying problems, applying knowledge, and creating solutions that provide value to customers and stakeholders. Recently developed canvas tools have value and value propositions at their center.
However, a subtle but important difference exists between creating and delivering value.
Product development efforts should focus on creating value—identifying stakeholder wants and pains, and developing appropriate solutions that are desirable to customers. Beyond creating value, the organization or venture must also be able to identify a market and deliver these solutions in a scalable manner that realizes value for both the organization and marketplace.
It is interesting to note that Deming’s ‘reduce variation’ message results in minimization efforts, while ‘delivering value’ appears to be a maximization effort. Deming also noted an unexpected correlation between reducing variation and improving productivity and cost. If “deliver value” is the right guidepost theme for the field of innovation, we should expect to see similar, unexpected positive impacts on enterprise performance.
Let’s inscribe “deliver value” on the guidepost that we leave to inspire further development in the field of innovation. This focus on value should serve as a guide for further development of tools and methods that will institutionalize the process of identifying the needs of relevant stakeholders and establish measures of the various types of value that stakeholders consider.