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Report from the Process of Innovation, Tuesday afternoon

Report from the Process of Innovation, Tuesday afternoon

| On 21, Aug 2007

Ellen Domb

Lev Buslovich spoke about his experiences at both GE and Carlson Hotels Worldwide, as a black belt, MBB, and innovation advocate.   He talked about the communication and cultural differences between public and private companies, and showed the distribution of employees on a matrix of creative and risk taking characteristics (the Creatrix Inventory).  Innovation is a challenge when the wrong people are in the wrong positions;  the audience enjoyed his stories of embedding innovation in DMAIC, DMADV, and in parts of the company that “have never heard of structure.”    Lev said that the systems they purchased (Strategos, IBM, etc.) all have some elements of TRIZ; they are aware of TRIZ but not using it explicitly.   973 ideas viewed through 84 lenses showed 1500 opportunities in 55 domains…over 15 weeks, to produce the innovative new business initiatives.  They use the Imaginatiks web-based tool to collect and manage ideas which works very well in their traveling, global environment.  

Concluding morning speaker was Carol Pletcher, former Chief Innovation Officer at Cargill, who presented the story of Cargill’s transition from a conventional company to a new culture characterized by “Nourishing Ideas.  Nourishing People.”  Innovation was designated as a key value for the “new” company.  This was a hard job, since the company’s self-image focused on the commodity nature of the business.    They had considerable success using Cargill’s history of competitive advantage through communication innovation as examples to stimulate new innovations.    The big change was the transition from episodic, crisis-based innovation, to a continuous, customer-focused process of innovation.   The definition “Innovation:  converting knowledge and insights into solutions that create distinctive value,” carried important cultural messages (conversion is something we know how to do, anybody can have an insight—not just R&D) that was the foundation for the new culture.   Carol had a great collection of REAL stories—innovations in product, process, and business methods at the farm, processing plant, and distribution phases of the business, and leverage and learning from multiple countries.  (1.  Use pear puree to make apple sauce more apple-y?  One idea led to a whole product platform of no-mess, fruit puree snacks.   2.   Road salt is a no-margin business.  “Safe driving in winter” changes the whole business model—now they coat the road with an epoxy resin/stone mix that holds salt, then releases it when cold.   Use this on the roads with the most accidents.  In the first year on one bridge, 10 accidents went to zero.) 

Lev asked Carol, “What would happen if we didn’t have these formal innovation programs?”  This became a major theme for the lunch discussions. 

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Chairman Joe Ficalora (right) with speakers Lev Buslovich  and Carol Pletcher.


The after lunch program started with Fred Ott,  Process Fitness MBB from BP.  Fred’s theme is “Uncover the benefits of integrating innovation within your current six sigma framework.”   He used real-life examples (the frustrations of current home installation services, help visitors to a park take better pictures) to engage the audience in the fantasy of system with the structure and rigor of the six sigma process to discover the customers’ needs and the process’ capabilities, then using innovation to develop new ways to meet needs and new ways to increase capability.   Fred then used the classical TRIZ move—turn things upside down—to suggest using innovation methods to improve six sigma deployments as well as six sigma projects.   There is a TRIZ flavor, if not explicit use of TRIZ, in benchmarking, and in predictive failure analysis (or subversion analysis, or AFD, …)  which is used as part of the implementation planning for both DMAIC and DMADV projects.   

Chairman Joe Ficalora returned to the podium in his role as SBTI’s EVP, to speak on “Combine your DFSS and Innovation Practices and achieve different ways to reach your business goals.” Innovation is hard work, creativity is fun, and you need both to stay in business.   DFSS’s sole purpose is to grow the top line.   Innovation is needed whenever there is no path from start to finish (I like that definition—different from everybody’s ordinary definitions, and it makes you think about why innovation is important—the start and the finish should both be important, so the absence of the path becomes urgent!)

 More to come…