We are excited to have Nick Smith share how innovation can work for you. Nick is the innovation process manager at JBM Packaging, an Assist 2 Develop member, and in his own words, works with an incredible team of passionate individuals creating new products that solve customer and market problems. This has resulted in revenue growth, higher margins, and better profitability. According to Nick, his team consistently wins by combining process with creativity.
A few of his accomplishments:
-Brought five new products to market in less than one year resulting in gross profit growth of 175%
-Designed and conducted more than 400 R&D experiments in one year, a new company record
-Developed project prioritization procedure resulting in faster project turn-around
We asked Nick to share his insight and approach to innovation:
Innovation is not a born talent but rather an acquired skill and process. W. Edwards Deming taught us that 94% of business problems are systems and process-based. Innovation is no different. You don't have to be a born genius or a creative wizard to innovate. All you need to do is follow a proven approach. I was introduced to such a method called Innovation Engineering at Eureka Ranch. They teach an innovation process that has been scientifically validated to reduce risk, increase speed, and magnify success. We've since adapted Innovation Engineering to suit our needs at JBM Packaging.
Everything starts with the customer. We are fortunate to have strong partnerships with our clients who bring us many of their most challenging projects. We work hand in hand with our customers to uncover the root cause of their problem or opportunity and define what a target solution would look like. This is called the discovery phase. The primary goal of discovery is breaking down the problem and gathering as much information as possible. The better the data, the better your decision making, prioritization, and design strategy.
Discovery is followed by ideation (brainstorming). Once we have a clear vision of our goal, we gather together a cross-functional team and brainstorm different paths, or innovation concepts, for achieving success. Some key strategies for ensuring effective brainstorming include rapid research, idea stimulation tools (article on the way), diversity of thinking, and suspension of critical judgment. Quantity breeds quality in brainstorming.
Successful ideation results in dozens of different ideas to solve the problem. The next goal is determining which innovation concept to pursue first. An excellent way to prioritize is by scoring ideas based on value to the customer, value to your firm, and ease of implementation.
Your innovation concept will inevitably face challenges. List out all the obstacles for each innovation concept starting with the most significant problem first. This helps you visualize risk and plan your development process.
The next step involves rapid cycles of experimentation to overcome the most significant obstacles first. Early prototypes are extremely useful and can be tested using a plan, do, study, act sprints. A key testing principle is to fail fast, fail cheap, and fail forward. With each test, your knowledge will grow, the risk will reduce and your design should either improve or pivot. Quick cycles of prototyping and testing are the fastest path to achieving the target objective.
This innovation process is built around flexibility, collaboration, and speed to market. The final solution rarely resembles the initial prototype, instead of having evolved throughout the process. What you end up with is a much better solution for your customers that has been scientifically proven to work.
This innovation process has been incredibly effective for JBM, but there are plenty of other methods and resources out there. Processes are important and valuable but becoming a slave to the process isn't wise either. There's always room for improvement, and everybody's system needs to be tailored to fit. If you're hoping to create your innovation process, please feel free to reach out via LinkedIn. Likewise, if you care to share a different approach or perspective, I would love to talk with you. Finally, I must acknowledge my gratitude to all of those who have helped me learn. Please check out the JBM Packaging innovation page and the Eureka Ranch website for more information!
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