New – Different – Better

Comment on New or Different? by Matthew May:

So don’t worry about new and different. Ask yourself: Is this clearly better than what’s out there now? And if you think about it, that’s a question you should never stop asking. Because new and different isn’t always better, but better is always new and different.

I wrote a similar post on my blog awhile back: Better and Different:

The answer, as I see it, is to be better and different (when necessary). In Seth’s post he talks about challenging people to find not just better solutions but different solutions. That is fine, as long as people don’t lose focus on being better. Neither one alone is adequate (at least not always). To achieve great success you must be both better and different.” That is what Toyota does.

Frankly, if you have to choose one, just being better will work most of the time. The problem is (using an example from Deming, page 9 New Economics) when, for example, carburetors are eliminated by innovation (fuel injectors) no matter how well you make them you are out of business.

I agree with Matthew May that it is often easy to see “new things”, when you look from a different perspective, as really just an enhancement of existing things or combining existing things in a somewhat novel way. Especially since so many things are packaged as amazing new breakthroughs when really they are nice enhancements.

Even management ideas are sold this way. And, for management ideas, I think they are most often actually degradations of what Deming, Ohno, Shewhart, Ishikawa, Ackoff… said – not enhancements. See: failures of management consulting advice.

Related: Process Improvement and InnovationToyota, Lean, Consultants…Google InnovationManagement Improvement HistoryDoing the Wrong Things RighterSix Sigma and Innovationleading management thinkers

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4 Responses to New – Different – Better

  1. shaun sayers says:

    I think I agree with you that in many ways whenever anything “new” comes along, on close inspection it shares a lot of DNA with the trusted methodologies of the post war TQM gurus. However, for whatever reason we do seem to need this occasional re-branding exercise. Familiarity breeds contempt? Or just another “new” product for consultants to market? who knows. I explored the same theme some time ago, and actually came to some of the same conclusions

    The more that people are able to adopt a thinking and intelligent approach to quality management, the better we’ll all do. Good article


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