What can 21st Century Innovation learn from 20th Century Manufacturing?

Light Bulbs

In the 1980s the Western World had a Manufacturing Problem.

Manufacturing was considered an art.

Quality was poor.

Management blamed the workers and the workers blamed management.

Businesses were destroyed in the UK with the influx of high quality goods from Japan.

Yet Japan themselves had undergone a manufacturing crisis following WW2 and they turned to Dr W Edwards Deming and Systems Thinking. He famously wrote that 94% of the problems are due to the System and 6% due to the worker rather than vice versa.

So, in the 1980s manufacturing in the Western world adopted the Systems Thinking of Dr Deming and Total Quality, 6 sigma, Lean Manufacture & Just in Time became the norm for industry. In his book “The New Economics” however, Dr Deming wrote that the factory represented just 3% of the opportunity for company improvement from applying system thinking.

Now let’s fast forward to today.

Innovation is considered an art.

Yet unlike manufacturing in the 1980s innovation today has a 95% failure rate.

Still we treat it like a random gamble with Management blaming Product Development, Marketing, Manufacturing & Sales for their lack of success with innovation.

And yet the solution lies, as it did in the 1950s in Japan and the 1980s in the West with the Systems Thinking of Dr Deming. He felt that 97% of the opportunity for improvement from applying system thinking lay in applying it to innovation, strategy and the way we work together.

So what held back the application of system thinking to innovation?

It was lack of data.

No one collected any because innovation was viewed as an art and needed gurus not data.

Well almost no one. Doug Hall of Eureka! Ranch in Cincinnati, whose father worked with Dr Deming, has spent the last 30 years building the largest documented innovation system on earth. In the process he has educated over 35,000 people and has over  $75 Billion of documented projects in active development that provide proof innovation can be transformed from a random gamble to a reliable system.

Or in other words from an art to a science.

Doug’s system thinking approach to innovation is called Innovation Engineering and is now taught as a field of academic study and leadership science in over 20 universities across USA and Canada as well as in organisations such as Procter & Gamble and Disney.

And just like the managers and workers discovered in Japan in the 1950s, anyone can be enabled to learn how, you just need to be willing


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