Why innovation almost always results from unconventional methods

Why innovation almost always results from unconventional methods



 If you look closely, the process that Henry Ford used for devising Assembly Line (the process that introduced mass production to the world), was itself a Lean and Agile process.

When Ford was working and competing with other niche car manufacturers, he didn’t copy the model that everyone else was using. That is, he didn’t rely completely on suppliers which were manufacturing vehicle parts as individual units. The parts that these suppliers produced, were not always identical. Assemblers at the factories had to mold them using hammers or mallets so that they fit the vehicle. Instead, Ford kept experimenting to achieve the outcomes he was looking for. His experimentation included changing almost all aspects of the process, often one at a time. His whole approach was iterative and incremental.

Here is an  example of what he did and how. 

Assembly station related experiment:

In order to reduce timing of building cars, Ford designed assembly stations.

At first, both the assembly station and the assembler were stationery.

Cycle time 514 minute.

Ford wanted to improve on this time and he decided to make changes. As a result, the assemblers were now moving station to station within the factory. That meant that the stations remained stationery.

The cycle time now reduced to 2.4 minute.

Isn’t that astonishing? A lot of people would be elated with such a feat and would just stop any further improvement. In the actual fact, stopping is even a far cry, most will not even agree that any more improvement would be possible.

The next change that Ford made was to keeping assemblers stationery and turning assembling stations into moving platforms, which became known as the assembly line.

The cycle time now was 1.3 minute. 

The point is, whatever you are attempting to do, check if that encompasses experimentation, exploration, critical thinking, pivoting, learning (even from failures) and iterating.

Setting up innovation hubs, centre of excellences and sloppily copying & applying labels has never made any organisation innovative or progressive. If you’re in a position of power, empower others and build an innovation culture. If you’re not in a position to make large scale changes, at least change the way how you do things.