Innovative Solutions _____September 2006
In this issue
-- Feature Article: How to Improve Your Innovation Success Rate
-- On a Personal Note:
-- On the Lighter Side:
-- Article Policy

Welcome to the September 2006 edition of Innovative Solutions, the monthly newsletter from Innovative Thermal Solutions. If you find this information interesting or useful, please share it with your friends and colleagues.

Word count approx. 1200
Reading time approx. 5 minutes.

Feature Article: How to Improve Your Innovation Success Rate
In the past few newsletter articles, I have been using Creativity and Innovation almost interchangeably. They really aren’t the same thing. Before we start talking about how to manage innovation, let’s define what it is. David Kelly, the head of the new D-school at Stanford (the D stands for design) has this to say: “If we can move people from saying, “You creative guys, to saying, You innovative guys” – meaning the guys who have big ideas but also have a methodology and are clever about how you make them viable in the world – then I think you’ve got something.” Thus creativity plus implementation equals innovation. Both creativity and implementation can and should utilize a defined, measurable process. And if the process is defined and measurable, it can be managed. An approach to innovation based on business strategy, design strategy, innovation methods and metrics can dramatically improve innovation success rates.

What are some of the pitfalls to avoid?
  • Confusing R&D with innovation. Last month we talked about the effectiveness of R&D spending and how important it is to properly manage the R&D process. Hiking R&D spending doesn’t automatically increase innovation success rates. Seeking new ideas from around the globe can often be more productive. The companies having the most success developing innovative new products are those focused on collaboration, both inside and outside of their own companies.
  • Confusing marketing with customer understanding. Understanding the unarticulated needs of your customers is very difficult and something very few companies do well. You have to get out there and interact with your customers and ask questions. There is no substitute. And I’m not talking about just your sales and marketing people. It has to be a collaborative effort including product designers, engineers, and even manufacturing.
  • Confusing “out of the box” thinking with innovation. Creativity is a key part of innovation, but true innovation is so much more. Remember you have to create a process that can be measured and managed.

Procter & Gamble and General Electric are acclaimed to be leading the way in creating innovative cultures within their companies. Here are some of the lessons they have learned.
  • Open up. Companies need to end their “not-invented-here” cultures. R&D work should be linked to online networks of scientists, engineers, consultants, and overseas labs. Bring in outside design, innovation and technical expertise. Get your people out of the office to interact with customers and suppliers. GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt in an interview with Business Week had this to say: “Creativity is important. It's an ingredient in innovation, but it's not the only thing. We're trying to stimulate new thinking by bringing people in from the outside, such as [design consultants] IDEO, to make sure we're not too internally focused.”
  • Lead the revolution. You are trying to change the culture of your company. That can only be done from the top. The CEO has to personally champion the goal of becoming innovative and introducing innovative new products.
  • Change managers. Only some managers trained in Six Sigma and other traditional business process improvement methods will be able to make the change. GE’s Jeff Immelt had this to say: “I look at Six Sigma as a foundation on which you can build more innovation. I don’t think every manager can do both [Six Sigma and innovation], but I don’t need every manager to do both.” He went on to say: “We want to make it O.K. to take risks and do things that aren’t just going to [produce results] this quarter. We went through a comprehensive internal effort and came back with five traits we now use at our training center in Crotonville [N.Y.]. They are: external focus, decisiveness, imagination and courage, inclusiveness, and domain expertise. This is the foundation of how you become more innovative.”
  • Change incentives. Link bonuses to new ideas and customer satisfaction. Tie spending to breakthrough projects that identify new markets, sell to new customers and create new products. This is very important. As Eli Goldratt is so fond of saying: “Tell me how you are going to measure me, and I’ll tell you how I’m going to respond”.

Innovative Thermal Solutions and its network of affiliates are available to help your company become more innovative. To further discuss innovation management or any technical issues regarding new product development of thermal system related products please call us at (517) 424-7107.

On a Personal Note:
It’s with mixed emotions I greet the cooler temperatures we’re experiencing. Autumn is my favorite time of the year. Those warm, sunny days and cools nights are great. I love it. But, that also means that another summer has come to an end. And as much as I like autumn, I’m just not ready to say goodbye to summer so soon. The grape vines still need more time to grow. I want to spend more time sitting on the back patio sipping wine. And truthfully, I wouldn’t mind mowing the lawn another time or two. No sense lamenting the end of summer when we are already three games into the college football season. Time marches on. GO BIG RED!

On the Lighter Side:
It’s not always easy to recognize “innovation” when we see it.

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." --Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." --Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." --The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"But what ... is it good for?" --Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." --Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." --Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" --David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible." --A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" --H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." --Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." --Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

Article Policy
© 2006 Innovative Thermal Solutions. All Rights Reserved. You are free to use material from the Innovative Solutions newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear.

The attribution should read: "By Bob Utter of Innovative Thermal Solutions. Please visit Bob's web site at for additional articles and resources on engineering services and new product development." (Make sure the link is live if placed in an eZine or in a web site.)

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