Innovation versus Problem-Solving
Problem-solving and innovation are two essential business processes that we need to master in order to thrive and prosper in the face of the many and varied challenges that we face.
The trouble is that while both processes are necessary, if we spend too much time fixing problems around the place we leave too little time for thinking about how we are going to do things better in future.
Our default position is skewed much more towards problem solving than towards innovation because it is more urgent and less risky. We actually spend more than 90% of our time on problem solving and less than 10% on innovation. However to truly get ahead of the pack we need to rebalance this towards a 50:50 split.
Here’s a question for you to think about. What is the split in your business today and what could you do starting now to improve the balance?
The key distinction between the two processes is that problem-solving is about FIXING things that have gone off standard to bring them back to the previous level of performance whereas innovation is about IMPROVING performance to a new, higher level.
An example of problem solving might be where picking productivity in a distribution warehouse has dropped below standard for some unknown reason. The task at hand is to indentify the cause, fix the issue and return productivity to the previous level.
Innovation on the other hand would be where investment in new automated technology gives rise to a step change in productivity bringing it to a far higher level than could ever have been achieved with the old way of doing things. Innovation often takes place in response to an opportunity or more often a threat. In this case, for example, the rising cost of labour.
In today’s business world there is no shortage of threats and opportunities. To thrive and prosper in this environment it is essential that you do not allow day-to-day problem-solving activity crowd out innovation in your business. You must be purposeful about innovation and explicitly assign time and resource to it, otherwise it simply will not happen.