Continuous improvement is great, but shouldn’t we innovate?

Do more with less. We’ve all heard it, and it’s great to create lean services during austerity. However, there’s a limit to lean, and a point where we need to try new things and do things differently. Chris Dorobek of the DorobekINSIDER spoke with Ron Ashkenas, Managing Partner at Schaffer Consulting, author of Simply Effective and co-author of The GE Work-Out and The Boundaryless Organization about innovation.

A difficulty of government is that it rarely allows the room and time for innovation. Companies like Google, Intuit, and 3M give a certain percentage of time to employees to think of new ideas; but this is outside the norm. Constantly trying to do more with less is leaving no room for creativity in government. Though there are definitely some services where it’s important to keep improving efficiency, we also need to be looking at different ways of doing things. The continuous improvement movement can discourage outside of the box thinking.

When continuous improvement becomes an integral part of a company’s culture, it can lead to stagnation because of endless reviews. Continuous improvement is important, but so is innovation and giving good ideas consideration, even if all of the data isn’t there yet. At a time when resources are constrained, “dreaming” isn’t usually condoned – this is something that needs reconsideration.

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Josh Nankivel

If your ‘continuous improvement movement’ is discouraging outside of the box thinking, you aren’t doing Lean.

When Lean is done properly, you’ve got a culture of innovation and every employee is a part of that culture. It isn’t just about doing formal reviews of processes; Lean thinking acknowledges that most of the truly awesome ideas come from the people who are doing the work, and breaking down the silos which ‘continuous improvement’ efforts are usually limited to. A smart employee who can see the value stream of a product or service from beginning to end is going to rock your world with the innovation they come up with when empowered to do so.