By Michael Hughes
The new word for innovation
When IIE first hauled the gentleman on the left out of the gutter of daily newspapers and gave me shelter, sometimes I wondered if I was in a foreign land.
It wasn’t quite like dropping back into southeastern Turkey or rural Syria. After all, staff members here at IIE world headquarters do speak a fair bit of traditional American English. But lean, Six Sigma, 5S and other terms might as well have been Greek – Koiné Greek at that. Throw in the real Japanese words, etymological gems like kaizen, gemba and jidotka, and you have a real mish-mash.
But, as they say in the southern United States, they’ve learned me. Nowadays I can converse with genuine, real live IEs for at least a couple of hours before I get lost. Sometimes.
Still, the learning process continues. New words, methodologies, tweaks to old process improvement routines and the never-ending parade of acronyms keep me researching and asking questions.
This month, my new favorite word is kata. You guessed it – it’s from the Japanese. In our cover story, Conrad Soltero relates how he was influenced by Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata, published in 2009. To Soltero, value stream maps, identifying impediments to flow, conducting kaizen events and other lean tools always had been a series of improvements, not genuine continual improvement.
On the other hand, kata choreographs the practice of daily improvement to cultivate the lean mind. One corporate example is Google, which allows its engineers to spend 20 percent of their time at work developing innovative ideas.
Interestingly, 50 percent of the Internet search giant’s products derive from that 20 percent work rule. Google’s early October market capitalization of $249.5 billion topped Microsoft, and it was the world’s second largest technology company behind Apple, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Soltero’s “Rediscovering the Kata Way,” which starts on Page 28, refines the improvement kata into an innovation kata, offering ways for you to generate, study, and reject or develop new ideas. So take a look. Perhaps you'll find the kata way to innovative, explosive growth.
Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at email@example.com or (770) 349-1110.