Why is continuous improvement important to innovate in a company?
In recent years, innovation has become an aspiration for many organizations, which are looking for ways to offer something new and unique that radically changes a market or an industry. Disruptive innovation is often the holy grail for corporate boards and management committees, but is this the only innovation possible?
In this article we discuss continuous improvement and explain how organizations that apply it can innovate.
Difference between continuous improvement and innovation
Continuous improvement is a constant and progressive process that seeks to improve a company's products, processes and services in order to achieve a better user experience.
Innovation, on the other hand, consists of providing different and better answers to existing problems or needs.
We are talking about two concepts, continuous improvement and innovation, which are closely related. In fact, continuous improvement can be the key to innovation if we put into practice the expression "think big, act small".
Thus, if we fragment a large and usually complex thought into smaller and smaller parts, the end result would probably be a multitude of possible continuous improvements that would allow us to make small variations in a product or service that would improve customer satisfaction.
Thus, each modification by itself will not mean an excessive change in the product, but if after some time we compare the initial model with the resulting one after several modifications, we will be able to appreciate a significant difference.
Therefore, from our point of view, continuous improvement is undoubtedly innovation.
Let us take Michelangelo, the great Renaissance sculptor, as an example, and imagine him standing with his hammer and chisel in front of a huge cubic block of marble, chiseling the stone again and again. How do we label each of these chisels? However, at the end of the whole process, the block of marble would have disappeared and we would have that radicality that is David, and that marked all the sculptors who followed him.
¿Qué beneficios aporta la mejora continua a las empresas?
The greatest benefit that the application of continuous improvement brings to organizations is that it reduces the fear of risk that comes with talking about innovation.
I don't know anyone to whom continuous improvement does not seem to be something that we should apply constantly, since it is accessible to any type of organizational culture. However, innovation, either because it has become a mantra, or because it has become mythologized, or because it is not well understood, often generates resistance and is seen as something specific to certain sectors or geographical areas.
It is worth mentioning the case of Toyota, which has reached where it has, mainly due to its perseverance in "Kaizen" (the maxim "today better than yesterday, tomorrow better than today", which is the philosophy of Toyota's production system) and constant and transversal continuous improvement.
How can organizations implement continuous improvement?
In our experience, the right way for companies to implement continuous improvement is, for example, for their managers to think about encouraging all members of the organization to detect aspects that can limit its future, or even eliminate it. And keep that list of potential stoppers or killers alive.
If you are clear about these beacons, simplifying the following steps in this text for reasons of length, you only have to answer the question: what steps can I take every day to turn those "stoppers" into accelerators; and those "killers" into new opportunities?
These steps will be continuous improvements that, focused on very specific points, will gradually transform our value proposition as an organization. We are much more creative destroying or criticizing than being positive, so this technique is very useful and even fun.
In addition, it is essential to periodically review the possible stoppers or killers, as they change over time, and, as mentioned above, to involve all members of the organization in this process.
What is the first step to innovate?
All the most innovative organizations in the world, without exception, were once very small. However, what has allowed them to grow is that they have always maintained and stimulated the four CICE skills innate in people that are fundamental to innovate: Curiosity, Imagination, Creativity and Experimentation.
Thus, the first step for a company to innovate is to know its culture and identify where the accelerators and brakes are that allow it to stimulate these four CICE skills.
In this sense, InnoQuotient is a unique tool to diagnose the innovation culture of organizations, based on a solid and robust model, statistically validated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and published in the MIT Sloan in 2013. InnoQuotient has already helped hundreds of organizations and hundreds of thousands of people learn about their culture, climate and leadership style, to stimulate the curiosity, imagination, creativity and experimentation needed to generate innovation.
Thinking big, no matter how big, is free and takes no risk. While acting small, very small, means generating new data and discovering new options. The result of this, however small it may be, accumulated, eventually ends up being a great transformation. Innovation is within anyone's reach; it is the consequence of an attitude towards life.