True sense of the term ‘Innovation’

Let’s face it, the term innovation has been too often coined to describe products and organisation.
The true sense of being innovative can be ambiguous to well-marketed and ‘instant gratification’ seeking society.
Surely it is not a simple instance of ‘Faster, Better, Cheaper (or may we be more politically correct to say more cost-efficient) as key elements to define an innovation.

How is innovation truly measured and what does it mean to the general public and business consumers?

A search on wikipedia, enlightens that the word innovation derives from the Latin word innovatus, which means “to renew or change.” In business and economics, innovation is the “development of new customer value through solutions that meet new needs, unarticulated needs, or old customer and market needs in new ways.”

In an organisational prespective, innovation is often linked to positive changes and is looked at as a ‘catalyst to growth’. Formulating new processes, product design, delivery and communications, leads to better productivity, competitiveness and market share. My question to organisation leaders of teams in a work environments is this-
Do you encourage innovative thinking and sharing? If so, how is it done?

When I was working as a Marketing Executive with Singapore Technologies-a manufacturer of Satellite and communications equipment, devices and solutions,  I was introduced to the adopted  Japanese philsophy ‘KAIZEN’.
KAIZEN encourages every person in an industry,everyday to come up with suggestions for improving everything: themselves, their job, their lunchroom, office layout, answering habits and their products. We received over a thousand ideas every year from staff of over sixty as a subsidiary,  and the big majority were put into operations quickly. We also had incentive program to award winning ideas that were implemented. Each staff member what had an idea implemented, was awarded between the range of $40 to $10,000, for successful individual and team submissions. As a deputy chair of this KAIZEN staff suggestion scheme, I looked at records and found that over a six year period, four patents was filed and new innovative process produced, a long with substantial cost savings for the company.

The kaizen improvement focuses on the use of:

1. Value-added and non-value-added work activities.
2. Muda, which refers to the seven classes of waste—overproduction, delay, transportation, processing, inventory, wasted motion, and defective parts.
3. Principles of motion study.
4. Principles of materials handling.
5. Documentation of standard operating procedures.
6. The five S’s for workplace organization, which are five Japanese words that meant proper arrangement (seiko), orderliness (seiton), personal cleanliness (seiketso), cleanup (seiso), and discipline (shitsuke).Translated in short form and easy assimilation,it could be  Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.
7. Visual management by means of (visual) displays, that everyone can use for better communications.
8. Just-in-time principles to produce only the right units in the right quantities, at the right time, and with the right resources.
9. Prevent or detect errors.
10. Team dynamics, which include problem solving, communication skills, and conflict


Toyota Motor chairman Eiji Toyoda once revealed,” One of the features of the Japanese workers is that theire workers use their brains as well as their hands. “Our workers provide 1.5million suggestions a year and 95 percent of them are put to practical use.” At Nissan, “any suggestion that saves at least 0.6seconds-the time it takes to stretch and walk half a step-is seriously considered by management.”

So now we know the secret to  Japaneses competitive innovation drive and success.

KAIZEN means improvement.
It is ongoing improvement involving everyone:
Top management,
middle managers
and workers.

Apparent, BNZ has applied KAIZEN thinking for a number of and recently wanted to raise awareness again internally to promote it as an intuitive part of everyon’s role. Here’s a concept, “Kiwi-flying’ as a promotion campaign that was pitched successfully by a creative agency.


-Masaaki Imai- Kaisen: published by the learning revolution- G Dryden & Dr J Vos.



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