Organise How You Innovate

October 21st, 2011

Innovation is a complex process, requiring extensive research, testing and implementation procedures before it can be officially incorporated into your workplace. Innovation can be an incredibly successful venture in your organisation, and the ISO 9004:2009 provides a simplified and structured technique to allow innovative advancements. It ensures long term success by redefining the role of improvement and innovation within a quality management system by connecting knowledge, information, technology and learning processes.

Innovation refers to the creative design of new product, which could include:

  • Developing a solution protecting against a mistake or problem experienced previously, which is then applied to the product
  • Finding an application or good practice and applying it in your workplace
  • Matching an existing solution with a problem in your product

Improvement and learning
There are only minor differences between improvement, innovation and learning, with each overlapping and complementing one another. An improvement is inventive changes applied to an existing product to make it more compelling for customers, or to reach a wider customer base. Improvements also apply to the production process, by streamlining procedures to increase efficiency and quality while lowering the cost. Learning is storing information and using it for future reference, and the ISO 9004 clarifies and connects these concepts to guide the way in quality management.

Root cause analysis and statistical research can be performed in a variety ways, depending on the nature of your business. A small business lacking the resources to devote an entire department to research might outsource ideas from interested parties. Outsourcing can also include this like crowdsourcing and collaboration, which draw on the ideas of a large group of unqualified members who regularly experience the product. For example, Starbucks has an online portal where customers can enter their personal ideas to improve Starbucks products. This type of e-collaboration has been found to dramatically accelerate the process, with Proctor & Gamble claiming more than 50% of its product initiatives involve outside innovators.

However, ISO 9004 also provides guidance in more traditional sources of innovative ideas, such as scientists and professional researchers. A small group of highly qualified members, internally or externally, will dedicate 100% of their work time to research activities.

At a particular point in the innovation process, activities shift from theoretical form to practical form, as trial and error begins. Searching, probing and making mistakes are essential elements of the innovation process, but with ISO 9004, you will ensure this stage is as cheap and effective as possible. You may not realise, but there are better ways of brainstorming, prototyping and experimenting.

Even at the final point of implementation, ISO 9004:2009 provides a systematic approach to introducing the final product. If you’re a user of the previous standard, there are crucial benefits in upgrading as the new standard suggests broader applications of innovations and improvements. The standard regards innovation as a continual process involving a series of steps, rather than an elusive idea to be stumbled upon.