The REAL SECRET to Deming and Innovation Engineering revealed!

Good Morning Innovation Change Agents,  Sorry in advance for the long post.  However, important issues like this one - have require more depth of thought. 

Earlier this year I sat down for breakfast with Clare Crawford-Mason and her husband Bob.  Clare is the visionary who produced the NBC White Paper - If Japan Can Why Can't We?  That documentary introduced Dr. Deming to the leaders of USA Companies and set off the quality movement in the 80's.

Note:  Clare and Bob went on to create with Dr. Deming the official Deming Library. A video library that in my opinion is the most valuable course in true leadership ever created.  We are humbled and honored that Clare and Bob along with Kevin Cahill (Dr. Deming's Grandson) have made the library available for use in Innovation Engineering education programs.At the breakfast I started off by explaining our principles, our cool tools,, the methods we had. Before I got far, Clare cautioned me.  Ok caution is not the right description.  Rather she then BEAT ME UP - and explained  that the secret to Deming was not about tools.   "Deming was about Transformation."   She explained that he was about changing the method of thinking.   I tried to explain - to defend really - that American's like tools.  And, that that's why we talk tools - that through the tools we would get to transformation.   She was having none of it.  In fact she was pretty BLUNT that if we continued to focus on tools we would FAIL.

The more we talked the more I began to understand what she was saying.  I started to realize that it was not even remotely possible for us to have a tool for every situation.  However, if we could create the transformation of mindset - then the worker or manager could figure out the right combination of "tools" or even better "create their own."AND - the more we made it about the tools - the less the management would take responsibility for the cultural change.  The more I thought on this - the more I could relate to examples in my life and that I'd seen where companies bought "packaged point solutions" to solve a problem and thus no sustained change occurred.

One thing was clear to me that day.  If we were truly to change the world - we were going to have to change our approach. So from that breakfast  a chain reaction of change was set off.  Or more specifically - A transformation of my mindset occurred.I say above "began to understand" because I'm still learning. As I watch the hours and hours of Dr. Deming - and have more conversations with Clare and Bob - I continue to learn more and more.Here's three examples of how this idea of Transformation is "top of mind" to me. They occurred in just the past 48 hours.

Transformation in Thinking Example #1: Friday morning I was briefing 15 or so faculty who teach Innovation Engineering at 7 Colleges about our new Cycles to Mastery teaching system that we will be rolling out next year.   I related my breakfast meeting with Clare and explained that instead of teaching "tools" we were moving to teaching students how to achieve mastery of SKILLS.  The collective purpose being a TRANSFORMATION of mindset.   Yes - Clare changed how we approach how we teach on campus - and starting in January how we teach Innovation Engineering College (the Executive Education Black Belt course) and Innovation Engineering Workshops (the Green Belt courses for front line workers)

I gave as an example of this transformation to skills and mastery versus tools the class in sales forecasting taught last Tuesday.  The class was created by Brad Hall - a Civil Engineering Senior - who as part of his Innovation Engineering Minor  is leading an Innovation Engineering project to invent more effective ways of teaching math in the INV392 Commercialize class.  The class last Tuesday was on sales forecasting.  Classically we would have given the students the Fourt Woodlock trial and repeat equation and had them do the calculations (we never give them the online calculator :)   Brad felt that they didn't really master the concepts when they used this  "plug and chug" approach.   So instead - he created a digital class were students learned definitions (repeat rate, trial, etc.  He never gave them the Fourt Woodlock Equation.  Then, the first assignment in the Lab class was to think through and discover the equation for themselves.The difference in teaching the thinking process - instead of giving the "tool" (equation or on-line tool)  was amazing.  For the first time ever students really learned and mastered the concept.  A music major came up to me near the end of class and asked me to look at his calculations - he was concerned they were wrong.  I had him explain his thinking behind the calculations.  When I told him he was right - a huge smile came over his face. "Wow...I'm usually not good at math."  This my friends is what a Transformation of Mindset is all about.  He may well forget the names used in the equation - but he will never forget how to think through what goes into forecasting trial and repeat sales.Transformation in Thinking Example #2: When talking about "what had they learned?" when teaching Innovation Engineering - the various faculty on Friday made it clear that they were finding Innovation Engineering to be much more important than they had thought.  They related story after story of how students were using the skills they had learned in their personal lives - in their senior capstone projects, in their community.

The U Maine IE Curriculum Team then explained that we had transformed the assignments to be more life relevant.  In the past we spent 90% of the time doing small business case studies.  In the new Cycles to Mastery version the assignments are much broader - including everything from life challenges to interpersonal challenges to problems that they care about in their everyday lives.   Our goal is to get them to have a transformation of mindset in how they approach their lives.

Transformation in Thinking Example #3: Yesterday morning Jesse Bechtold I.E. Black Belt from Kansas (MAMTC) and one of the most progressive leaders of the Innovation Engineering movement  - in his regular Saturday morning post on the IE Black Belt Blog - posted about the multitude of ways his team is applying the Innovation Engineering transformation of mindset with companies in his area.Jesse's post reminded me of Clare again.  Innovation Engineering was designed from the start to be a program that enabled customization.  While the predecessor generations of the program (Eureka! Winning Ways) had fixed structure and format - Innovation Engineering was designed from the start to allow for infinite customization.   It was created with a free form Playlist system that allows you to create a 1 hour, 3 day - what ever was right - effort to Problem Solve a problem or Create new ideas.   The Communicate and Commercialize teaching were both designed to be principle not prescription focused with lists of idea starters for improving your communications and problem solving death threats.NOTHING IS PRESCRIBED.  This is both the best thing in the world and the worst thing.

If you have made the Transformation of Mindset (proactive innovator) - the Freedom provided is spectacular

If you still have the old mindset (reactive & cost focused) - then the freedom is a nightmare.

The tools are "deconstructed" so that you can use them in what ever way is right for the situation.

The IE Jump Start and IE Management System are "packagings" designed to be customized in what ever way is right for the situation.

What we are learning is that the real purpose of the Innovation Engineering Black Belt program is to help students of all ages - achieve Transformation to an Innovation mindset.



p.s. You can probably guess - because of this transformation of mindset you will also start seeing cool changes to IELabs that allow even more customization - especially in the enterprise version - to make it easier to adapt to the multitude of situations that exist.

Here's Jesse's post in it's entirety -- in classic fashion he gives a little story with his post. 

Tinker Toys, a classic American creative toy, was first sold in the Chicago area in 1914. Nearly 100 years later these assorted sticks, wheels, caps, pulleys, and couplings continue to entertain kids, parents and consultants. Poured unassembled from the canister these simple wooden toys can be put together in very basic shapes by the youngest children and newest consultants. Simple shapes help them learn about lengths and angles. If something doesn't fit right don't worry! Simply take the shape apart and start over, try a different configuration. Truly a "fail fast, fail cheap" learning experience.After watching the young and inexperienced build their squares, cubes and other simple structures, Dad wants to play. And why not? He has practiced, knows all about Tinker Toy geometry. He has made all sorts of simple things, now it is time to push the limits! What's cool is Dad will use the same Tinker Toys to make his tinker toy computer that the kids used to make their cubes and squares. He takes the same unassembled pieces from the same canister but these same tinker toys in his hands become a ferris wheel, or a windmill...or a computer.What a fantastic product! A simple toy for children to practice creativity while learning how to fit things together and yet the same products in the hands of graduate students can be used to design complex working machinery. The toy doesn't change, what changes is how it is used and the skill of the person using the tinker toys.

We should use the Innovation Engineering Management System the same way. A collection of cool tools and techniques. We first learn how to assemble these tools into a simple Jump Start. By adding more sticks, wheels, pulleys, caps and couplings we can have an IEMS Implementation.

Why stop there? Reconfigure the tools a little differently and we can have a Sustainability Jump Start or maybe a Stimulus Mining Workshop. One of my clients wants to do a "Create Rodeo", I have never heard of such a thing, but I said "Sure!". We disassemble a typical create session and pull together some tools and methods that will let us work on four concepts with four teams in a four hour session. It will work but not because I am forcing their request into our standard create session. It will work because we are using our tools to reconfigure the create session around their needs.

I have used IEMS to facilitate a joint venture discussion between two companies. They focused their discussions on how their joint venture can better define customer, problem, promise and proof. We confronted the death threats and teams comprised of members from each company did rapid cycles, learning how to work together to overcome problems. It was not a standard jump start, but we used the same tools and methods, simply reconfigured for a different purpose. (They could not overcome a death threat around customer definition and the joint venture was "killed"-an amicable, and inexpensive, breakup)

Let's get beyond thinking of Innovation Engineering as the standard jump starts and "IEMS" implementations. Expand your thinking, how can you use these new tools and methodologies to enhance your sustainability projects, six sigma projects, lean transformations, etc.?

Tinker Toys are great because they are what our imagination says they are. Innovation Engineering tools and methods are great because they, too, are anything we need them to be. Go ahead, take them apart, reconfigure them and see what you can create.

(A tip of the hat to Mark Chalfant for the Tinker Toy analogy!)