Innovation from a “Gemba” perspective


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When was the last time you approached your business as a customer?

Have you ever placed an order for your own product, and followed its path from start to finish? It may be time to start. It may be time for a Gemba Walk.

Competitive business strategy requires effective planning, development and growth. It demands innovation in all aspects of performance and interaction. The ability to monitor, study, and track core elements; both human and material, can help to minimizing errors and increase profitability. Theories, studies, and methods implemented for achieving innovation vary, but the core essence of all teachings is same; understanding the situation and thus improving the structure.

Robert’s Rules of Innovation strongly emphasizes ‘Observe and Measure’. What is measured gets done. Observation, measurement, and tracking of new product development results are essential to optimal ROI.

The ‘Doblin Thinking’ method, initially developed in 1998, elaborates on the multiple types of innovation, consisting of innovations in product configuration, offering, and experience. The frame work thus identifies new possibilities and tremendous potential, outside of basic product innovations.

Now enter the Gemba Walk – no it’s not some crazy new dance the kids are doing nowadays; Gemba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place“. The ‘Gemba Walk’ terminology focuses on the human aspect of going to the place where value is created to understand and observe the true facts from the entrepreneurs’ point of view.

The concept stresses:

  • Observation: In-person observation
  • Value-add location: Observing where the work is being done
  • Teaming: Interacting with the people and process in a spirit of Kaizen (“change for the better”)

The real action taking place in a company does not take place in a conference room. Functionality and workings out on the floor can be comparatively different from the data and analysis displayed in a conference room. This principle is based on direct involvement and interaction with the work force, identifying the cause of all problems, and building awareness by means of involvement.

Gemba walking is not a technique used for solving problems. It is a system of observation, input and reflection. This procedure processes room for creativity, as theory and reality might differ, and helps in delivering proper recognition and focus through channeled innovations, product performance and system improvements.

The practice of implementing such procedures helps in actually viewing the service and quality received from the consumers end, ordering a product and then following through the order from start to finish. An effective, progressive, and successful entrepreneur not only focuses on output (results and profits), but also on the company’s reputation and credibility, always keen on finding better ways to gain an upper hand against competitors. It is by understanding the real possibilities and limitations that the right decision is made at the right time.

The winning edge comes by following the structure through the eyes of the common worker, managers, team leaders, and consumers; so that when a new innovative opportunity is recognized, it is executed most accurately and effectively.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Brands
Innovation Coach and Author of "Robert's Rules of Innovation" Past CEO of Airspray the manufacturer that brought instant foaming dispensers like hand soap to market


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