Engineerovation™: Innovate Like an Engineer

Updated: Jul 8, 2020


When most people think of innovation, they envision "creative" folks in scarves and brightly-colored glasses. They often associate "innovation" with freewheeling words like "creativity," "imagination," and "brainstorming."

For most executives I speak with, "innovation" also conjures less-fun adjectives like "uncertain," "moonshot," "expensive," "random," and "risky." The image of throwing spaghetti against a wall comes to mind...

It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, it SHOULDN'T be that way.

It begins with how we define innovation. I define innovation as the PROCESS of devising solutions that address unmet customer needs.

Just like any other process, the innovation process can be designed, structured, controlled and optimized for efficiency. And to do that, we need boring stuff like data, science, formulas and math.

Suddenly, the scarf and brightly-colored glasses in our mind's eye fade to a lab coat and safety glasses. And possibly a pocket protector.

If you asked an engineer to design or optimize a process for anything from manufacturing to customer service to paperwork approval, she/he would very likely employ a construct such as Lean Six Sigma (LSS), a scientific process optimization philosophy aimed at minimizing waste and variability. The core phases of LSS are Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve/Design and Control (DMAIC).

Combining LSS with Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) innovation theory results in what I call Engineerovation™ - the engineer's way to innovate:

  • Define - Define the customer, the “Job-To-Be-Done,” and the market, then comprehensively identify all the associated customer needs.

  • Measure - Statistically evaluate the degree to which the customer needs are met or unmet for different subsets of customers.

  • Analyze - Discover the resultant innovation opportunities associated with the quantified customer needs, and develop an appropriate innovation/growth strategy.

  • Improve/Design - Take action to design or improve products, features, services, processes or business models to address the unmet customer needs.

  • Control - Implement the systems, processes, training, vocabulary and communication necessary to support the successful launch and commercialization of the innovation.

With Engineerovation™, we can turn traditional innovation, which is often a random crap shoot, into a stable system of highly-predictable innovation inputs and outputs.

Imagine...

  • Your innovation investment producing growth-stock returns, with treasury-bond risk.

  • Being able to actually predict and plan for your future innovations.

  • Not having to place dozens of innovation "bets" and hope for one "jackpot" to pay for all the losses.

  • Being able to finally do away with the wasteful and self-deceiving "fail fast and pivot" nonsense that so many unproductive innovation programs use as a crutch.

  • Spending far less money on innovation, while dramatically reducing your time to market.

  • Knowing with high confidence before you enter a market, launch a business model or make an acquisition, that the investment will pay off.

This approach may not seem as "exciting" as the traditional "innovation roulette" you're used to, but if you ask me, "boring" success beats "exciting" failure any day.

It's time to re-think innovation. It's time to INNOVATE LIKE AN ENGINEER.

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