The Power of Simple Ideas and the Power of a Community of Practice

In the past few weeks, a very simple idea has made me look like the smartest person in the room. It wasn’t really true. 

What I knew was how important it is to hang out with smart people. I’ve been part of a Lean community of practice for several months now. We meet twice a month over coffee and talk about … our work, our challenges and our successes, the best recent reads, upcoming conferences and training, and everything else Lean that strikes our fancy, including the occasional piece of Lean humor.

The Optimist sees the glass as half full.

The Pessimist sees the glass as half empty.

The Lean Practitioner sees the glass as two times bigger than it needs to be.

We use the Lean Coffee format developed by Jim Benson. Here is the Lean Coffee website; here is the invitation to join us.

Dave Nave is one of the regulars and he shared this idea with us one time, which he attributes to a long-ago professor who undoubtedly would give further credit somewhere. It is a simple idea, so it has probably been thought many times.

If you want to make your business better, your choices are always in this matrix. Improve your process, improve your products, innovate in your processes or innovate in your products. It looks like this.

So I was talking with an organization that is really concerned about ‘innovation’ in their field. And this simple idea really helped them clarify where their opportunities lie.

The most helpful part was the sliding scale between ‘improvement’ and ‘innovation.’ To go to the standby car analogy, this time focusing on electric and hybrid technology, Tesla is at the innovation extreme: a company created for the purpose of creating a new kind of car. The Prius is one notch closer to improvement: a car company, Toyota, made a new product from scratch. The Ford Escape took an existing model and put a hybrid engine into it, which was still an improvement miles larger than most model-year changes.

Now they could see that ‘innovation’ might be relatively small changes in the process to deliver an existing product – or it might be something big and brand new – but all of that could be managed under one framework, with one methodology, and one system.

So, now you know three things: you have this simple and powerful idea, you know that simple ideas can be the most powerful, and you know that a community of practice is a powerful idea for generating powerful ideas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *