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The Quality Movement Vs. The Innovation Movement.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 28, 2006

I talked with Gary Hamel the other day. He did a book, as I recall, with CK Prahalad years ago that developed the concept of “core competence” and he’s worked on innovation for many years. We talked about our personal experiences in trying to innovate within our own organizational cultures—how hard it is. And Hamel said something that stunned me. He said that it took 20 years for the Quality Movement to really take hold in Corporate America and that it would probably take 20 years for the Innovation Movement to do the same.

Wow. It makes sense. The father of quality, of course, was Dr. W. Edwards Demming, and he preached for a very long time before he was really heard. In fact, as I recall, Japanese companies first accepted Demmings teachings long before U.S. and European corporations.

Innovation is the new black among managers these days. Everyone talks about it. And many are starting to do the hard work to make it happen. But only a few realize that it may take an entire generation to make their corporations totally innovative, from the HR people to the scientists, from the engineers to the accountants. Google gets this, but then Google is a new company built from scratch. Most other companies are in the stage of building Innovation Gyms, tacking on innovation to their organizations. Some are going further by also doing workshops to change their culture and opening up and partnering up to bring in outside voices. But few realize just how hard it can be—or how long it will probably take. Do we have the time?

Reader Comments

Rupa Chaturvedi

June 28, 2006 6:04 AM

I wonder if Google's association with Innovation is hype or reality. Most of us get onto the hype bandwagon instantaneously withought realizing what the definition of innovation is in our and our customer's context.

I see a lot of organizations listed in innovation lists and yet not very innovative in the basic experiences they provide to customers, employees, partners etc.

Is it just a "coolness" factor? How much thought do we really give as professionals, individuals, organizations and communities to making a difference, opening up our minds and make a change?

So how does one define innovation?

John Feland

June 28, 2006 6:22 AM


We don't have time to wait and like the quality movement, many companies will fail before they mature their innovation cultures sufficiently. Others will survive with their old ways well beyond when everyone expects them to fail.

My feeling is that innovation will take longer to take hold than Quality. The Quality movement took off when they finally developed easily implemented quality metrics that actually could demonstrate not only the state of quality but also the impact that various initiatives had on quality. There is not yet an excepted suite of innovation metrics that provides the same organizational innovation health metric that the Quality Movement had.

Milton Friedman once said that all models are wrong but some models are useful. We have yet to find the really useful innovation metrics. People have been touting things such as patent measures (horribly lagging indicators and even then not useful) or % of sales from new products (near impossible to separate the impact of innovation initiatives from other influences such as market dynamics or [goosh] quality issues).

What we need are process measures as well as product measures. But these measures should not have undo impact on the process at hand. As you well know innovation is a messy business. Measuring it is also messy...



Georges de Wailly

June 28, 2006 9:24 AM

Dream is the spark of innovation

Innovation is by essence something new. The big problem is that recruitment refers to records and evidences. So, a person working in a company has been recruited on criteria based on his/her past.
The second point is how to measure a person's innovative potential? The first thing asked to an employee is to comply with the rules.
It is the same with children in school. I have seen several times teachers blaming children because they were dreaming. Those teachers could not understand at all this attitude.
The little dreamers do not comply with the system regulations so they must be punished.
The result is that children are highly innovative. You just have to look how they are playing. But only a few percentage of adults have a spatial vision, it means the ability to imagine themselves in a self constructed world.
Shoud we consider that detecting these persons is a key to create innovative staffs?

Mike Reardon

June 28, 2006 6:38 PM

IBM is fully in the business of innovation application, and if you want metrics on the return on investment, they and the ten other innovation service providers like SAP, or EDS. Can give a complete view of what can be gained from outside innovation of your business process.

This site above looks to cute to be the place to look for real business offerings. But I would think most business innovation, will be generated from outside partnerships with firms, specializing in transformational innovative processes that are introduced as standard business plans.

Mihail Molin

June 29, 2006 1:45 PM

Innovation is a new understanding of the Rules of Nature. So it's always in opposition with traditional views. But otherwise we didn't sail for big distances using the force of wind (and we haven't sailed to America and united the world) and don't fly by planes like birds now. And, for my own example, the ergonomics (the study of the relationship between workers and their environment, esp. the equipment they use. Also called: biotechnology - Collins) of mobile devices where I'm working dictate one of such rules - the optimal width of the communication device for *typing on it like on a standard keyboard* is equal to the width of three fingers (beginning from the index finger and at the level of the fingertips) of an average man's hand and no surprise that it is also corresponding to the width of the three keys of a standard keyboard - 54 mm. And the spaces between keys allow to add only one, the fourth column of keys so the ring finger is responsible for the two columns of keys. It's like in the ten-finger method when you put the index finger on J key at the start. That was the base for creating my project - Compact QWERTY Keyboard -

Andy Summers

July 10, 2006 3:39 PM

I think the forces pushing innovation are different than those that championed quality. Innovation comes from your employees; innovative people will seek out organizations that embrace their creativity and innovation. People are banging on Google's door solely for the promise they will be working on innovative products in an environment that nurtures and rewards innovative thinking, and will bypass any organization that does not offer a similar reward. If companies fail to embrace this, they will lose the innovators they have and fail to get any new creative people in the door. They cannot wait 20 years because the talent pool will not support it.

Evidence of this is being played out in the Web 2.0 space. You can argue about which Web 2.0 players will last, how their model fits the enterprise, etc., but you would be missing the point. The theme of these new applications is collaboration, personal networks, individually modifiable applications and cyber spaces, etc. Those who embrace these new technologies are likely the same people you would want in your organization as innovators. More importantly, they are also your current and future customers., and will begin to demand similar innovation is other services and products. Quality is all about output, but innovation is about input.


February 19, 2007 4:06 AM

can you please provide me information about quality movement in India,Taiwan,Korea,Iran,Thailand

niema - hafiz elmosawi

November 1, 2008 7:17 PM

thank you
i hope for you agood time in your work and life - please you can send me any peaper for (innovation- quality - productivity ) thank you again -

Anneloes Cordia

November 11, 2008 10:00 AM

In my new publication I state that without innovations no improvements can be made in productivity and business performances. The competitive advantage is dependent on the fulfilment of the customer’s requirements without the spenditure of more capital or labour. The evolution both for innovation and quality management point to added value management. This publication "Innovation Management Practice Handbook; Guide for process set-up in accordance to ISO 9001: 2000 and Design for Lean Six Sigma" can be downloaded at

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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