In his debut column for Enlighten.mu, Jason Delorie, innovation coordinator at ENL, insists that small improvements brought consistently over time, generate low-risk growth and is key to fostering an organization-wide culture of innovation.
When most of us hear the word “innovation”, we automatically picture radical or disruptive ideas that change the world. But in reality, growth is mostly achieved through a steady stream of incremental innovation that is more cost-effective and sustainable. The actual success rate of radical innovations is amazingly small, according to Innovation-Management.org, likely less than 10%.
Small improvements can add up to significant change over time, and represent continuous learning by researchers, managers, developers, suppliers, and customers. Incremental change is, in fact, an important source of low-risk growth and successful innovation management must establish the balance between evolutionary and revolutionary initiatives that will grow and sustain the business over time.
Take Apple for example. They are leaders in innovation and yet their focus is as much on incremental innovation as it is on disruptive innovation. Smartphones existed before Apple entered the market. Yet, the incremental innovations of a larger touchscreen, the app store, various ease of use features and an improved overall user experience enabled the iPhone to not only be immensely successful and but to also be the first in making smartphones mainstream.
It is this culture of incremental innovation that ENL seeks to foster in the group through dedicated instruments that include CiLab or the ENL Continuous Innovation Laboratory. We are mission-driven to assist operational teams in improving their efficiency through the use of technology.
Incremental change may seem insignificant when looked at individually, but from a group perspective, it can have a large impact. Saving 1 hour from an individual’s day may not be noteworthy, but when applied to a whole department or the group at large, it is hundreds of man hours that are saved. Better motivation and allocation of skilled resources, allowing employees to focus on what they do best, would be much welcomed collateral benefits.
This evolutionary mind-set is something that CiLab holds true, and we have already engaged and implemented several incremental innovation projects. Investor Relations Assistant Gary Lee Ping Ching presented the first opportunity to the team a few months back. When CiLab was first approached by Gary, you could see the frustration on his face. Sadly, the source of his frustration is one that most of us know all too well: having to do repetitive, time-consuming and mundane, albeit important, tasks that take us away from our core duties.
We listened carefully to Gary and had him formulate his problem statement in order to be sure we got a good understanding of his core issue. We then identified key elements for improvement: firstly the time-consuming nature of the task and secondly, the proneness to human error. CiLab responded by testing the simplest of solutions, a Macro to automate data manipulation on Excel. This simple macro was able to release Gary from his torment and to save him that hour. Gary says:
I can now not only sort and regroup ENL’s shareholding database according to my needs but I can also identify new and outgoing shareholders as well as analyse the movements in shareholdings for any specific periods in time. All this, at a mere click whereas before, I used to spend 2 to 3 hours on this task.
Rather than overlooking the opportunity as small or inconsequential, CiLab responded with the incremental innovation mind-set. By not looking to reinvent the wheel we formulised a simple solution that integrated with Gary’s current process.
Got a similar problem? We encourage everyone to give more thought to incremental innovation and welcome any suggestions no matter the size. Email your opportunities to email@example.com.