“Innovation is in the DNA of Manufacturers”
Mike Walton, an executive at Google gave a keynote speech at Industry Week’s Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo. He says that manufacturing innovation requires a “culture of innovation” for sustainability over time.
As the global head of Manufacturing Industry at Google, and a veteran consultant, Walton has some keen insights to what it takes to innovate and think big in today’s manufacturing environment. He encourages leaders to answer a very poignant question.
“Ask yourself, are you enabling not just your lieutenants but the lowest-level personnel with the tools, techniques and trust to think big to make incremental improvements and leapfrog improvements?”
70/20/10 Practice to Support Manufacturing Innovation
One of the key points of Walton’s speech is related to a practice used by Google themselves, called the 70/20/10 method.
- 70% of time should be focused on “small steps”. These small changes add up over time! Think about daily process improvements, cutting small costs and improving ROI for seemingly small activities.
- 20% of time should address “jump steps”. These are more sizable changes such as new product development or improving hiring and retention practices. “How can you really grow your department or company?” he asks.
- 10% of time should be dedicated to “moonshot” ideas. These are fundamental changes to the company, culture, products, operations and personnel. “How can you change the industry?” he added.
As a Google example, he cited the Google Glass, which was conceived because an employee asked “Why do I have to hold a phone? Why can’t I just wear a phone?”. This started the trend in wearables, which is still a major point of innovation at Google.
9 Ways to Make Innovation Sustainable
Walton offered 9 unique ways to help manufacturing innovation remain sustainable for the long-term. These points can help companies avoid the common trap of starting strong, but losing momentum over-time, which causes real change to stall or become non-existent.
- 10X – it is easier to make a 10X huge change than a 10% improvement.
- Launch and keep listening – get feedback on changes and continue improving.
- Collaborate – personally reach out for other viewpoints (and not just via email).
- Hire the right people – even if it takes time. Read more about the Cost of a Bad Hire.
- Apply the 70/20/10 rule – challenge yourself to think differently, for just 4 hours a week.
- Empower employees – look for ideas everywhere.
- Use data, not opinions – don’t “always shoot from the hip”.
- Focus on the user – not the competition.
- Celebrate victories – and don’t condemn failures, but use them as learning opportunities.
Innovation Delivers Growth
Research by PwC solidified the fact that manufacturing innovation results in better business growth over time.
In his speech, Walton presented their finding that the “most innovative companies in the study delivered growth at a rate of 16% above that of the least innovative and they are more bullish about their growth prospects”.
Where to Start?
So, how do you become more innovative as a manufacturer?
First, spend the time needed to create innovation. New thinking is not going to come from old habits. Make time in your week to think big, and plan big. Here are some tips on breaking old habits that can be applied to work life.
Then, think more strategically about who you are serving, what your goals are, and what you bring to the table as an organization. Layer on technology advances, market changes and competitive opportunities to get a sense of your strategic direction as a company. These tips on better business brainstorming could help you start the process.
Finally, get the right teams together, plan the right projects and hold each other accountable to achieving them.
What changes can you make in your organization to become better innovators? Think big AND small!
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