How Whirlpool Defines Innovation

How Whirlpool Defines Innovation [the broken link was removed]

now we say if we’re going to put any money in an innovation project, it has to sit on a migration path, it has to be something that the customer really wants, and it’s got to return an above-average profit.

I’m not sure I really agree with this description. However, perhaps within Whirlpool this is a helpful definition, as George Box says: “all models are wrong, some are useful.” Perhaps viewing innovation in this way is useful to them. Gary Hamel consults for Whirlpool and knows a great deal about innovation so who am I to judge.

We trained these people called I-mentors who are kind of like Six Sigma black belts. They have real jobs, but they’ve also had special training in how to facilitate innovation projects and help people with their idea. We have nearly 600 of them around the world, so it’s very likely that in your location or the department next to you there’s an I-mentor who you can talk to.
Before innovation, we would take big risks or we wouldn’t take the risk at all. I’m talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. This process has taught us you can take smaller calculated risks; $25,000 can tell you a lot in the marketplace. To date, we’ve shelved about 670 concepts. We hate to say we’re killing a project; we say it’s been shelved. It’s still a struggle for us.

Innovation continues to be an important factor for management improvement. And looking at what is working is worthwhile. I still believe innovation without other aspects of Deming’s ideas (constancy or purpose, stability of management, long term thinking, not managing on visible figures alone) are likely to be less successful.

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