Manufacturing Excellence – Inspire, Lead and Succeed with INNOVATION!

“There’s a way to do it better—find it.”
~ Thomas Edison

Yesterday I attended an event on innovation at the SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers). It was very interesting to hear all the different insights and perspectives from people who work in the industry.

Innovation can happen on so many levels and that’s the exciting part. The backbone of our economy in the future will certainly be innovative start-up companies with the drive to change the world as we know it. There were discussions around protecting IP (intellectual property) but also about the power of collaboration. Should we trust others with a great idea? I would like to think so but reality shows that many times you can’t. There are simply too many people who would do anything to make a profit and easily forget about values such as honesty, integrity and ethics. 
Can it be that we need a lesson or two on character building and basic life skills?
From my perspective, I believe that the most overlooked and least understood concept of innovation lies within the development of great ideas from the shop floor. It’s the subtle discipline of making small and effective changes on a continuous basis. At the SME event yesterday it was suggested that 90 % of businesses don’t understand the stages from having an idea to the successful implementation of this idea. Isn’t this mind-boggling?
What would it be like if the corporate culture would fully support employees to constantly look for better ways of doing things?
Where could we be if more people in management would show a sincere interest in engaging people’s hearts and minds? 
What could be achieved if we looked at every single idea with the full intention to implement it or at least to make a partial use of this idea? 
What if we embraced ideas more readily? 
What if we looked at ideas as a new possibility instead of an increase of unnecessary workload?
What if we would delegate the responsibility of making it happen to the people who do the actual job?
Continuous improvement is a must if we want to succeed in our endeavours to compete in this global market. The only way to separate ourselves from the competition will be creativity and innovation and this will require encouragement from the top. Standardized processes can hold people back from asking themselves if there is a better way. While standards are important, we shouldn’t forget that standards require regular review and improvement.
The ability to preserve what worked well in the past and move forward with successful new developments will depend on how well inter-generational groups can work together. The key is the right combination of an appreciation of wisdom and experience, and the acknowledgment of fresh ideas and vision for the future. Mutual respect and open-mindedness at all levels of the organization will also be critical. As long we keep this in mind we will be able to overcome roadblocks more easily. 

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