Quality Progress - May 2017 - 46
exclamation "Eureka!" came after working
for a long time on how to establish the
density of the gold in the king's crown.
You also must determine what aspects
of your present product or service could
be blocking the solution. Organizations
that have developed successful innovations had the courage to remove sacred
attributes of their existing products.
As noted earlier, Pauling said the best
way to have a good idea is to have lots of
ideas. One is not enough. At this stage, you
must find alternative solutions. You will stay
with the concept and evaluate the concept.
Call it prototyping if you like, but at a very
conceptual level. You are not yet developing a working process, product or service.
Selecting the solution
Having generated volume, we now must
identify solutions most likely to fulfill
customer needs and, at the same time, be
most diﬃcult for competitors to copy. Still
working as a group, we use old-fashioned
storyboards (which still work for group
critique) and sticky notes. We must collect
data to support our choices, however.
W. Edwards Deming said, "In God we
trust, all others (must) bring data."6 This is
not easy to follow for some creative people,
so include developers who are data people.
Some of the areas in which we need data
(and most won't be crisp) include:
+ The time needed to develop a working
solution. At this stage, we are only at
+ The probability of being able to produce
a working solution.
+ The cost of producing a working
+ Do we have the in-house competencies
to produce the solution?
+ Which new suppliers are needed, and
what is the risk attached to those
+ What are the delivery chain choices and
the attendant risk?
It is critical that the attached risk is
measured and managed.
There is a key lesson here for the
May 2017 ❘ qualityprogress.com
innovator: People can copy your offering and even steal your technology, but it is much
more diﬃcult for them to steal your unique competencies. Always choose solutions in
your area of greatest competency.
Test your ideas
After you have short-listed your solutions, you will follow with testing, information gathering and changes in direction (pivoting) as the solution is revised to arrive at the final,
validated version. Typically, the conceptual solution changes radically as testing unfolds.
Fail early. Clearly, the more you can weed out weak offerings in the creative phase, the
better the cost outcome. You find what works, stop the things that don't and resource
the things that do.
The future of problem solving
We are increasingly seeing virtual ideation software as workgroups operate remotely.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has developed rapidly since 2000 as computing power has
AI will accelerate problem solving. Humans, however, are still far more capable of fast,
intuitive judgement because of one remarkable attribute: common sense. And this unique
trait is based on the enormous body of knowledge and experience a person carries.
The World Economic Forum's report on the "Future of Jobs" shows some interesting
trends from 2015-2020 in skills needed.7 Creativity is in 10th place in 2015 and third in
2020. Complex problem solving remains at No. 1 on both charts. This is what employers
will want in their employees. Both of these skills are attributes of an innovator.
Sow the seeds
Connectors are those who find conceptual solutions and must include developers who
can build a working solution. Using collective knowledge is the most powerful way of
finding alternative solutions and is built on previous experiences.
Somebody will be sure to say, "You can't do that," so be prepared to sacrifice sacred
aspects of your current process or product. Ideation, even though it is loose, follows a
definite process, and an epiphany is really the last piece to the jigsaw puzzle.
Sow the seeds of creative problem solving at a level where you know you can succeed.
1. Albert Einstein, BrainyQuote, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins130982.html.
2. Albert Einstein, AZ Quotes, www.azquotes.com/quote/811850.
3. Peter Merrill, Innovation Never Stops, ASQ Quality Press, 2015.
4. Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step, Harper Colophon, 2015.
5. Linus Pauling, BrainyQuote, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/linuspauli163645.html.
6. W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog, "Large List of Quotes by W. Edwards Deming," https://blog.
7. World Economic Forum, "The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the
Fourth Industrial Revolution," January 2016, www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf.
Peter Merrill is president of Quest Management Inc., an innovation
consultancy based in Burlington, Ontario. Merrill is the author of
several ASQ Quality Press books, including Innovation Never Stops
(2015), Do It Right the Second Time, second edition (2009), and
Innovation Generation (2008). He is a member of ASQ, previous
chair of the ASQ Innovation Division and current chair of the ASQ
Innovation Think Tank.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Quality Progress - May 2017
Seen and Heard
Mr. Pareto Head
Mind the Gaps
Are These the Same?
New Tricks for an Old Tool
Back to Basics
Quality Progress - May 2017 - intro
Quality Progress - May 2017 - cover1
Quality Progress - May 2017 - cover2
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 1
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 2
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 3
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 4
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 5
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Seen and Heard
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Expert Answers
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Progress Report
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Mr. Pareto Head
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 10
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 11
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Field Notes
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 13
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 14
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 15
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Mind the Gaps
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 17
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 18
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 19
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 20
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 21
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 22
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 23
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Solid Footing
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 25
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 26
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 27
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 28
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 29
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Are These the Same?
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 31
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 32
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 33
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 34
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 35
Quality Progress - May 2017 - New Tricks for an Old Tool
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 37
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 38
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 39
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 40
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 41
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 42
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 43
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Innovation Imperative
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 45
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 46
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Career Coach
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 48
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 49
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Statistics Spotlight
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 51
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 52
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 53
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Standard Issues
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 55
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 56
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 57
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Marketplace
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 59
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Footnotes
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 61
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 62
Quality Progress - May 2017 - 63
Quality Progress - May 2017 - Back to Basics
Quality Progress - May 2017 - cover3
Quality Progress - May 2017 - cover4