American Manufacturing – Hidden Innovators?




Wordle: Innovation in Manufacturing - Not Just TheorySeveral weeks ago, I spent 5 days in Portland, OR, most of that time spent working and learning along side a scrappy group of people from a ~150 person manufacturing company.

The topics we were wrestling with? Innovation and creative problem solving.

Now, these days, particularly in the United States, two dirty words/phrases are manufacturing (due to close tie to automotive manufacturing sector) and banking (’nuff said). So, color me surprised to meet some of the most innovative, and frankly, incredible people in a company who may be the most incredibly well poised for current and future success of any team I’ve ever encountered.

Theories Don’t Do Diddly… Action is Required

What I found most fascinating is that this company has taken the best of the best of “management theories” – whether it be Six Sigma for quality in their processes, Lean in streamlining manufacturing and in actively (and always) engaging their customers through “Voice of the Customer” or in systematically engaging ALL employees (absolutely EVERYONE from the receptionist to machinists to business managers and up to the CEO) in innovation and creative problem solving on a daily basis.

All the management theories that people seem to write off (Six Sigma is a fad, Lean is only for Japan, innovation can’t be taught let alone done by “normal” business people) – they are LIVING and DOING every day. Theory is “just a theory” if you don’t actually USE the theory, and being aware of theory is entirely different from using it every day.

Fascinating – and incredibly inspiring.

Four acesDouble-down or Hunker-down?

While so many organizations are hunkering down and simply hoping for better days, or cutting to the bone, this team has more than doubled-down and has made an investment not only in the company as a profit-generating entity, and a commitment to excellence with their customers, but a literal investment in each and every employee that not only benefits the company and the employees TODAY, but is likely to have significant benefits for them for the rest of the careers, regardless of where that might be.

Even the Government Gets It

Through the local (to New England) cable news network NECN.com, I ran across a video clip of US Vice President Joe Biden discussing how the need for innovation exists across ALL industries, and that, as I’d mentioned above, American manufacturing has beaten down in recent years, that it’s not ALL bad news. Manufacturing innovation exists in many other areas, and many (certainly not ALL, of course) of the displaced workers from the auto industry have found work in manufacturing-related fields – alternative energy – wind turbine production, for example, solar panels, and many more.

Interesting presentation by the VP – I encourage you to take a look/listen and would appreciate hearing your thoughts, whether on the state of innovation at large, or as relates to manufacturing specifically. (Warning: beyond my control, but there is an insurance ad baked into this clip that front-ends the speech).

(jump below the video to continue this entry)

(if video isn’t loading – appears to be a NECN issue – go direct to the source clip)

Interested in taking Innovation to the next level in YOUR career and organization?

Carl and I have been involved in a course on innovation and creative problem solving for many years, beginning back when we (while at Delphi Group) had been acquired by Perot Systems (in 2004) and shortly thereafter, re-branded and focused as the Innovation Lab of Perot Systems.

Fast-forward through the work we’ve done extending Knowledge Management into Innovation Management (and back again), being judges for two years in a row in the Innovation Challenges run by Idea Crossing (sponsored by such companies as Hilton Hotels, American Express, Harley-Davidson, Whirlpool, General Electric, Shell, Lexmark, Red Hat – very interesting project), extending our ongoing research into innovation through over 50 podcasts with innovators around the world for the last 3 years, in speaking at one of the largest business focused innovation events in the US, the Front End of Innovation, or participating in the creation of a new book on Business Model Innovation…

Whew… it’s been an interesting few years – why not share in the benefits of what we’ve seen and done in the last five years? Innovation isn’t just for the well funded or the giant companies of the world – it’s far more accessible than you might think.

Can you afford to spend a day improving your innovation skills?

Let’s flip that around actually…

How can you NOT afford to spend a day improving your innovation skills?

In all seriousness, if you would like to experience a single-day, rapid-fire, immersive experience that I can guarantee will expand your innovation toolkit, change the way you attack problems, solve problems, put together teams, leverage your own problem solving and decision making strengths, and leverage the brains in your organization – then I highly recommend considering the 1-day innovation course we’ve just unveiled.

Take a look at the details of the 1-day course, and if you have any questions, I’d be happy to discuss the program. Whether your organization is large or small, based in Boston or Belarus… this training materials can be (and have been) used across a huge variety of organizations, regions, and industries.

Equip the brains in your organization to invent the future, one idea at a time…

The journey starts now – but only if you get off the sidelines and jump into the fray.

– Dan Keldsen, Co-founder

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