W. Edwards Deming was an innovative American thinker that gave us the modern quality system. He became a national hero in Japan after his ideas helped the country rebuild following the devastation of 1945 and it became one of the best economies on the planet.

If you are not familiar with Deming, please spend some time investigating https://www.deming.org.

He helped GM turn the corner in the 1980s and was highly sought by all the Fortune 100 companies. One of his famous 14 principles is “Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” He understood the power of fear to limit an organization and its innovation.

In my travels, I’ve been amazed by the level of fear many people hold concerning change in their organization. At times it is subtle, but many times it’s expressed as “I would never suggest that — the boss would have a fit!”

We know that most of the ideas that will transform your business are already in the minds of your associates, but if they fear the response to the idea, you will never hear it. Your management team must create a fearless culture — so how do you accomplish this difficult task? These steps will help to establish fearlessness:

  1. Establish clear innovation goals for the organization. Create an enabled champion of the innovation culture from one of the top three people in the company and make innovation part of their everyday job. This will create a safer environment for ideas
  2. Start small but think big.  Ask for ideas on a current product problem from the associates and implement the ideas that they agree will work. A small success of implemented innovation will increase courage for larger ideas
  3. Perfection is not the goal. An innovative culture does not punish ideas that do not work. They learn from them and move on quickly. Once the associates see that there is the willingness to fail, they are more empowered to offer their ideas
  4. Create a team mentality. The associates need to feel they are all on the team and that they win and lose together. This culture takes time but is very important. It can be supported through rewards and sharing, and must be very transparent.
  5. Never quit. During the past 25 years, many companies have done the slogan of the quarter and the program of the year. These programs seem to come and go, and associates know this. This has created a “let’s wait this one out, too” mind-set and stifles buy-in with innovative ideas. Make the Innovation Project a guiding principle that your organization is committed to for the next five years.


Deming’s work is wise and extensive. He spent most of his life helping people to improve systems and to stop blaming problems on people. (We’ll discuss his Red Bead training in a future issue.) He believed that every process problem is caused by the rules and systems in place at your company. He said, “Massive training is required to instill the courage to break with tradition. Every activity and every job is a part of this process.” Your success in innovation will require this massive training to drive out fear, to be courageous, and enjoy new paths. Trust me, the investment is worth it.

Please let me know how it’s going– raygarries@gmail.com and see more ideas on the Linkedin Fenestration Innovation Network.

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