In our quest to improve and elevate our innovation efforts, a common problem appears. We need to recognize it and adjust our thinking to maneuver around it. The problem? We focus too much on ideas and not enough on problem-solving and clear analysis of the issues at hand.

“Necessity is the mother of all invention” is a phrase we all have heard and instantly realize to be true. The need is a strong force that releases better ideas and a sense of urgency to solve the problem and solve it first. Some great examples exist:

  • In 1888, John Dunlop purchased a tricycle for his son. In Scotland at that time, the streets were rough cobblestone, and his son had difficulty with the bumpy terrain. The only tires at that time were hardwood and leather. This gave him an idea of using an inflatable tube to cushion the ride.
  • In 1948 George de Mestral had a problem. The prevalent clothes fasteners at the time were buttons and zippers, which often failed during his hikes. As he was pondering a solution to this problem, he decided to take his dog for a nature hike. Upon returning, the dog had some burrs in his coat, and de Mestral examined them closely. He instantly recognized that this may be the solution to the problem. That day Velcro was born and became a worldwide product.

Both of these examples illustrate how a focus on problem-solving helps clarify your observations of the world around you. Would either of these innovators have changed the world if they were not obsessed with solving a pressing problem??

The tool sets you often see me illuminate are a mixture of Lean thinking and innovation thinking. In this case these are again combined in my recommendation to improve your problem solving focus and thus better innovation. The text that backs up this is Root Cause Analysis: The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action by Duke Okes

Here’s a description of the book:

“We live in a complex world. People and organizations often don t believe they have the time to perform the in-depth analyses required to solve problems. Instead, they take remedial actions to make the problem less visible and implement a patchwork of ad hoc solutions they hope will prevent recurrence. Then when the problem returns, they get frustrated and the cycle repeats. This book provides detailed steps for how to solve problems, focusing more heavily on the analytical process involved in finding the actual causes of problems. It does so using a large number of figures, diagrams, and tools useful for helping make our thinking visible. The primary focus is on solving repetitive problems, rather than performing investigations for major incidents/accidents. Most of the terminology used is everyday language and can therefore also be used for applications in their personal lives. Many of the examples will involve situations with which the reader will likely be familiar. The focus of the book not on statistics but instead on the logic of finding causes. It has sometimes been described in training workshops as Six Sigma lite …problem solving without the all the heavy statistics”

By using the advice in this book, and by focusing on truly understanding the way to create great problem statement, you will improve your innovation.

Keep Innovating!

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