If you own a business you can’t miss the flood of information about how you have to innovate. I think this is true. At the same time innovation is about more than coming up with new products your customers can buy. Sometimes innovations focus on process inside your company.
A story that saved me tons of money.
When I was in my vending business we had a problem. It used to take us about eight weeks to train a new route driver. At the end of the eight-week training period we would set our new drivers free to work on their own. Almost every time a new driver would spend over twelve hours and lots of times sixteen hours on their first day out. They always came back frustrated and more than a few quit in the first month they were on their own.
We used to spend lots of time wondering why this happened. Then it occurred to us that our trainers were more interested in getting the route done than in teaching the new guy how to be competent.
We changed our system. Instead of training a new driver in the field we set up a vending location in our warehouse. We spent two weeks teaching them how to fill and clean machines. We then would spend two days in the field and cut them loose.
A strange thing happened - instead of a frustrated driver, we had new drivers that were excited. They spent about ten or eleven hours and felt confident they knew what they were doing. With practice they quickly got their day down to close to eight hours. Our driver satisfaction and retention went through the roof. I call this a win for both sides.
Sometimes internal innovation is more valuable than new products.
This innovation was more valuable than almost any new product we could come up with. It allowed us to reduce turnover, train new drivers more quickly and not have a trainer tied up for two months. Think about your own company. What sort of changes internally could you make that would really move the needle?
Lean is all about internal changes. Most of the time we’re talking about innovation that will make your company better. Internal innovation is thinking about changing systems and how things are done in your company. The changes are innovation, just like developing a new product.
Internal innovation requires you to think strategically about your operations.
Innovation is not a tactical activity. Usually it’s about small changes that you can make. Even in our vending company when we changed our training method it was a small change. We didn’t spend months thinking about this, we had a vending bank set up and just said let’s see what happens.
It was that simple. Just like trying new outside products you want to fail fast and fail cheap. Don’t spend months trying to build the perfect mousetrap. Just make small changes and see what happens. If it works, great, if it doesn’t work, then move on to the next idea.
In the end it’s a combination that makes the most sense.
While you’re working on internal innovation don’t forget about developing new products and services. It’s the combination of the two where real value is going to happen. Innovation is anything you can do in your company that’s going to improve your strategic position. Innovation will help you make life easier for your employees, help your company be more efficient, and provide new products your customers want.
The act of innovating seems pretty simple. Delivering on the promise requires you step out of the day-to-day and ask yourself, “What would happen if?” The answer to that question often provides interesting answers.
Innovation is a process. If you have one you’re more likely to see success in your efforts. We’ve developed a process to budget that is simple and easy to use. Think about how you can apply this to your company. To get our simplified budgeting process report, click on the button below.
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