Quality and Innovation

I think the The Quality Movement Vs. The Innovation Movement by Bruce Nussbaum makes a mistake in calling the innovation movement separate from the quality movement.

Wow. It makes sense. The father of quality, of course, was Dr. W. Edwards Demming, and he preached for a very long time before he was really heard. In fact, as I recall, Japanese companies first accepted Demmings teachings long before U.S. and European corporations.

Lets quote Deming on innovation from New Economics, page 10:

No defects, no jobs. Absence of defects does not necessarily build business… Something more is required.

What is required? Innovation.

New Economics, page 7:

Does the customer invent new product of service? The customer generates nothing. No customer asked for electric lights… No customer asked for photography… No customer asked for an automobile… No customer asked for an integrated circuit.

This is not hidden is some talk Deming gave once in New York City. This is in the first 10 pages of New Economics. I think maybe we overestimate how well we have accepted Deming’s teachings. We too quickly dismiss the work of everyone who has gone before, not just Deming but also: Ackoff, Box, Ohno, McGreggor, Kano, Scholtes, Joiner, Ishikawa and on and on.

Yes, today incredible innovation is taking place at companies like Google but this is not new. Toyota has understood the importance of innovation (biotechnologyHybrid cars 1993 moving into car manufacturingrobots) for a long time (and so have many many more: IBM, Disney, Nike, NASA, DARPA, Apple, Microsoft, Wal Mart, Sony, Merck, Intel, Chalres Schwab, 3M, Amazon, Da Vinci, Miles Davis, Picasso, Edison, Fosbury, Einstein…). And given the date lets add the United States of America to the innovation list.

I really don’t understand how people can talk about innovation as if it were some new discovery. Yes I understand we can bring a different focus to innovation. We can reconfigure management structures to encourage and support innovation. That is good. And new ideas are being developed, but the innovation fad is silly. And accepting the notion that this innovation stuff is some new idea will make managers less effective than if they understand the past.

For getting some good ideas about what managers/executives should understand about innovation Gary Hamel and Clayton Christensen (The Innovators Solution by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor, 2003) do offer very valuable information. While I do find the whole innovation fad a bit much that does not mean good work is not being done on how to better manage and understand innovation.

Other posts responding to Bruce Nussbaum:

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5 thoughts on “Quality and Innovation

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