By Luiz Prates, partner at FALCONI
According to Professor Falconi in the previous article, which marked the launch of this column, “any organization (and consequently its processes and products – merchandise or services) must be redesigned on a periodical basis, bearing in mind its new function and the needs of the environment in which it lives (markets). Such is the essence of innovation management. Organizations must innovate on a continuous basis”.
A lot of people believe that innovations result from inspiration, ideas that arrive “while in the shower” to the privileged minds of a few people. This can certainly happen, but not as often as necessary for organizations so that they can survive and prosper.
Several companies have approached us, asking for our help in creating a “culture of innovation” by means of motivational lectures, with examples of successful cases, such as for Post It, iPhone and other. This does not generate a culture of innovation, only motivational spasms that will soon fade with routine demands.
Other believe that the generation of internal ideas, without looking outside, are the source of innovation: several products/services are launched with an elevated risk of failure – it is the concept of Product Out, in contrast with the concept of Market In, when we use market needs as the source of ideas capable of meeting them.
It is possible, therefore, to promote a culture of innovation, but through processes, organizational adjustments and techniques that, when applied on a day-to-day basis, become a system with the purpose of meeting market needs.
There are some basic steps in order to develop an innovation management system.
First of all, one must identify who their clients are and find out what their needs are. Does that seem obvious? Carry out a test and ask your team the characteristics of the most important people that purchase your services – if these are final consumers, their sex, age, social and educational levels; if these are intermediate consumers (that use your product or service for producing theirs), their definition and the positions they occupy: people from Supplies, Production, Quality Guarantee, Sales? The answers will astound you.
Afterwards one must ask what the needs of these people are. Once, we were carrying out a project for the development of a chocolate-based product, and we asked the following question: “What do consumers want?”. The obvious answer was: “Good and tasty chocolate”. Is that enough to develop a successful product?
We need to use techniques that allow us to understand clients’ real needs and unfold/detail them until there are no doubts about what “good and tasty chocolate” is to the target audience at hand. We have been successfully applying the Quality Function Deployment technique (QFD), which simply and reliably allows for the identification and translation of clients’ needs into the technical characteristics of a given product, service and/or process..
However, just understanding the needs of the market is not enough. I know companies with excellent survey areas, but these companies do nothing – or virtually nothing – with the results of these surveys. We need a process that clearly defines what must be done, by whom, in what frequency and how, so as to identify market needs and devise products/services that meet these needs.
An innovation management process must be multi functional and permeate all the areas of a company, from Marketing,R&D, Supplies, Production and Sales to delivery. Why? Innovation belongs to R&D. No… If all areas are familiar with clients’ needs, each one must generate ideas within their knowledge field and in accordance with the process, in order to meet such needs. The exchange of knowledge generates new kinds of knowledge.
Certainly there are other actions that promote innovation, such as investing in research, give out awards to good suggestions; however, none of these actions carried out in isolation, without a process, can generate the speed and accuracy needed so that your company can prosper.
When carrying out an improvement project for the management of a product portfolio at a shoe factory, a very interesting innovation project was devised. “An innovative project is a project that fully meets clients’ needs and adds value to the company”.
Assuring quality us meeting clients’ needs; in order to meet such needs, we have to know them well and then develop products/services that meet them and also generate profits for the company.
Therefore, we can conclude that a quality assurance system us an innovation management system, and that it is possible to develop it and improve it on a continuous basis.
Innovation does not happen by chance.
Text published in the March edition of O Papel magazine.