Innovation vs Improvement

One of the biggest arguments in business seems to be whether to innovate or use Lean Six Sigma to improve. I personally believe that you have to do both, so I'm always looking for supporting evidence and I found it in the most unlikely place.

Guy Kawasaki, a member of the original Macintosh development team, wrote a book called Rules for Revolutionaries. One of the first rules is something I believe in:

Don't Worry, Be Crappy
A prototype is a great way to figure out what customers want. Put real people in front of a crappy prototype and you get a lot of feedback. At some point, you have to ship the current version of the prototype. Don't worry, be crappy.

Kawasaki says: "Revolutionary products don't fail because they are shipped too early. They fail because they aren't revised [i.e., improved] fast enough." Which brings us to rule number two:

Churn Baby Churn
Kawasaki says: "'Don't worry, be crappy,' doesn't mean you should stay crappy." Here's where revolutionaries and innovators start to fail. They burn themselves out creating the new product or service and don't have the energy to improve it. I see this with software products. Kawasaki discovered it with the Macintosh. "We found that revising the revolution wouldn't be nearly as much fun as creating it."

Kawasaki admits that even though Microsoft started out behind, they iterated more often and more quickly. I remember we used to say that Windows 95 was Macintosh 84.

Plan for the Churn
So innovation is a great way to create a crappy new product or service. You need people who are revolutionary innovators. (See my article on Lean Six Sigma Mindset.) Then, you'll need a different group of people to improve the product and the process.

Here's My Point
If you're only improving existing products and not creating new ones, you could get killed in the marketplace.

If you're only creating new products, but not improving them and the processes that deliver them, you could get killed in the marketplace.

You have to do both and it takes a different mindset to do each one. Stop arguing about which one's better and start doing both!

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, (888) 468-1537,"

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