Collaborative Innovation in Advanced Manufacturing: Just Getting Started

Advanced manufacturers—people who make “things”—face the same challenges in the Digital Age as their counterparts that traffic wholly in bits and bytes. Relentless immediacy. Increased transparency. In this article, the innovation architect Doug Collins reflects on the results from a survey that the analyst firm Frost & Sullivan conducted as part of the Manufacturing Leadership Council. What are the more advanced of the advanced manufacturing thinking these days about the practice of collaborative innovation? Are they on track?

Collaborative Innovation: something for everyone

Broad applicability makes the practice of collaborative innovation powerful. A group in product development starts the practice. Another group—the retail store associates—picks it up to good effect. Human resources takes notice of the uptick in engagement. They come calling.

The people who make things

In this spirit I read with interest the June 2015 issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal. Frost & Sullivan sponsors the Manufacturing Leadership Council, which publishes journal every other month. Council members consist of people working at firms engaged in advanced forms of manufacturing (e.g., Cisco, Doosan, Ford, Tata, GlaxoSmithKline, and The Procter & Gamble Company).

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Where Do Good Ideas Go to Die?: The Problem with Your Old Idea Program

Our team found an example of one of the earliest workplace suggestion boxes the other day from 1721 when a shogun, Yoshimuni Tokugawa, wrote to his citizens “Make your idea known . . . Rewards are given for ideas that are accepted.’” This means that the concept of crowdsourcing ideas that can improve a city, workplace, or world has been around for quite some time.

Well, at IdeaScale we’ve been discussing some of the old systems that pre-date idea software and why they didn’t work. We’re talking about cocktail napkins, excel spreadsheets, innovation programs that were run entirely on a single innovation@ email address. The reason that most people are looking for a innovation management software usually corresponds with one of these three shortcomings of the old program.

  • It wasn’t scalable. Usually the volume of suggestions to be evaluated is too much for a single person or initiative.
  • It wasn’t transparent. Transparency is important to these programs for a number of reasons – finding new resources, recognizing talent, identifying bottlenecks, and more.

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The Serious Job of Prototyping

Things have definitely gotten out of hand. Executives in suits are rummaging around in the LEGO box, a tall man is putting on a wig and speaking in a high-pitched voice, and a group has hijacked all the furniture to build what looks suspiciously like a fortress. Not a scene from an asylum, but the Prototyping phase of THNK’s Innovation Flow. It’s time to turn new ideas and visions into something tangible, a product that can be used and tested, broken up and rebuilt a dozen times. For innovation leadership, this is a crucial step in the creative process.

Build! Break! Try! Play! Dare!

It is virtually impossible to develop creative solutions to complex challenges and get this perfectly right the first time around, hence prototyping. Prototyping is about quickly fabricating the envisioned solution, then going through multiple iterations of testing it with users and fabricating new versions. The cost of fabrication should be low and the process of making and testing should be rapid. This is why a more accurate word for prototyping would be polytyping – it’s all about iteration.

There are three important advantages of Prototyping:

  1. Prototyping makes a concept tangible. One can use all senses to design the proposed concept. It allows thinking with one’s hands.
  2. Prototyping allows us to see if and how the various elements of the solution work together. It enforces consistency and completeness.

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5 Great Ways to Ignite Your Team’s Energy

There are always periods when, as a manager, you might feel that your team members aren’t as productive as they could be, when their morale seems a little low or when they don’t seem as fully engaged with their work as you would like them to be. This can lead to them leaving the company if the situation becomes really bad, which costs the company both money and time spent either hiring a replacement or training a current employee to replace them.

Celebrate the wins

When something goes well and a client is happy or impressed with the work of an individual or the team as a whole, ecognise and celebrate it. You don’t have to go overboard (not least because the effect will diminish the more you do so), but the energy and positive buzz that is created when something goes well is infectious and has a significant effect on the work and emotional state of the team.

Play to strengths

No team is going to be happy working outside their comfort zone – even if they are trying to develop themselves and learn new things, they have to feel confident and capable in their daily roles rather than worried and uncomfortable.

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