When I came to Eureka! Ranch over 14 years ago with my 2 years in government and my liberal arts degree in Communications (from DePauw University - go Tigers!) I had never heard of Dr. W. Edwards Deming - honestly, I'd taken only one class in the Science and Math building so it wasn't surprising. But, as an innovator it is important to understand who Dr. Deming was and what he means to quality and innovation not only in the United States, but across the globe. He was a visionary, whose tireless quest for the “truth” and unwavering belief in "continual improvement" led to a set of transformational theories and teachings that changed the way we think about quality, management and leadership.
As I talk to people about innovation I often quote Dr. Deming:
"No customer ever asked for the electric light, the pneumatic tire, the VCR, or the CD. All customer expectations are only what you and your competitor have led him to expect. He knows nothing else." -- From the last published interview with W. Edwards Deming, in the January 17, 1994 edition of Industry Week magazine (I've often added in the question would you have ever thought you needed an iPod?)
He believed it was up to the producer to produce it not the customer to tell you what to produce. It is reflective of the famous Henry Ford quote, "If I would of asked people what they wanted they would of said faster horses." (by the way there is debate on if he actually said this or not.)
I came across a blog post recently titled, "4 Key Points on Business Strategy from Dr. W. Edwards Deming." In the post they share the following 4 thoughts from Dr. Deming that are all reflective of innovation:
- It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.
- We are here to make another world – Advances in quality and customer service excellence are realized through innovation.
- Innovation comes from the producer – not from the customer.
- Customer expectations? Nonsense. - In seeking new and better ways to deliver service to our customers we need to be cognizant of the expectations we set.