In a recent blog at HBR: "In Big Companies, Lean Is Only One Piece of the Puzzle" - Wessel and Allworth highlight that bringing "Lean Innovation" into the corporation (rather than a startup) is only one step in improving innovation output.
They present 3 important points:
- Develop a shared innovation philosophy.
Corporate processes are typically geared to rapid and efficient development of incremental innovations. If you're going to start using Lean then you need a language to identify bigger or "breakthrough" innovations and focus Lean on them. You also need to recognise that the Lean approach isn't linear. It may take longer and go in more directions than a typical development.
- Go high enough.
Lean opens a lot of doors to profit by asking a lot of questions. Not just of the product, but also production, marketing and sales. To experiment successfully with changes in this wide range of areas, you need sponsorship from the highest levels in the company. (This is true in startups too, but as Wessel and Allworth point out, it's a lot easier to get access to a startup CEO.)
- Maximize autonomy.
As noted above, Lean needs the freedom to try and fail and to develop new approaches to every part of the business model. It's a lot easier to do all this if the project team or department are more autonomous. The more in charge of their own destiny they are, the more able they are to do all this without getting sucked back into BAU (business as usual).
The Missing Link: Bold Ideas
We think they are missing something important. Ideas. Or in more detail, the quality of ideas.
If you want to create breakthrough products, Lean can help develop them. This works well in the startup arena, because people often create startups because they have a bold, brave idea or vision of something new that people will want. But Lean won't work in a culture where ideas are incremental. And most corporations have that kind of culture. So we'd add an extra point:
- Build in a process to draw out bigger, bolder ideas.
The KILN system, powered by IdeaKeg, is a great example of something that can help. With regular stimulus and a process that draws out braver, bolder questions, it creates a steady flow of bigger, bolder ideas to feed a Lean innovation development process.
Lean + IdeaKeg
It's the most productive flywheel.