Holy Crap – Now That’s Innovation




Look around – is there waste in your organization? Is it time, paper, bits of plastic, scraps of wood, nuclear active material …? Of course there is waste , and often projects are focused on eliminating or minimizing waste – of all kinds. What do you do with it? Carefully dispose of it? Recycle? How about turn it into product? Given the right creative mindset and approach to innovation management waste can be viewed as opportunity. The approach isn’t new – just ignored too often.

Quick – what is Henry Ford known for? Most of you are likely thinking the automobile and/or the moving assembly line. But, how many of you thought “charcoal briquettes”.  That’s right, Henry Ford invented charcoal briquettes. When Ford noticed the amount of scrap wood and saw dust that came at the end of his car assembly line, his creative mind and business acumen could not tolerate the waste. He wondered if there wasn’t a market for the waste. Voila – he created the charcoal briquette, which he eventually sold off to a man by the name of Kingsford (name ring any BBQ bells?)

Today, I read an article that made me recall this part of Ford’s life. Artist Matthew Mazzotta is turning waste into both art and fuel. In this case the waste is the ultimate form of waste – animal waste – known to many as “poop.” Apparently Mazzotta is not the first one to think this way – tough he is the most artistically creative. There are farms, and entire communities in the Netherlands that are powered from the waste of herds of cows, horses and chickens, and projects underway in several countries to turn many forms of farm waste into energy. Brilliant.

While the article made me think about Ford’s briquettes, it also made me think about innovation management as a process, and how far too many companies fail to use it. Eureka moments  like those experienced by Ford and Mazzotta can be instigated in your organization. You just need to discipline yourself and your co-workers to think outside the box systematically, to look at something like waste as an opportunity, not a cost of doing business. Its not serendipity. It is disciplilne, a way of thinking about and viewing different situations. Tools such as SCAMPER and Morph Matrix, for example help to expose these opportunities. These tools, among others, as well, as related team building and process disciplines are the focus of IAI’s innovation workshops.

So again, I ask you, look around, what waste do you have? Is it crap – or an untapped resource? Let us show you how to change the way you look at that. Will have you saying – holy crap that’s innovation.

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