The Value of Innovation Lies in Continuous Improvement
Few days ago, I met a group of IT professionals on my flight back home. After the initial Hi’s & Hellos the conversations swayed from one topic to another. After sometime the discussion settled on our professions. I queried what each one of them was doing, to which a guy from the group quipped “we clean someone else’s age-old sins”. A lady sitting next to him jumped in to clarify that they are into application maintenance and day-in and day-out they fix bugs introduced by various people who would have worked on the pieces of code sometime in the past. Others pitched in this and observed that in today’s world there are softwares for anything and everything. And there is nothing new to create. To justify this, they started providing references to some companies and their projects. It sounded like the world is flooded with applications for each and every need. After listening to them I was disillusioned realizing that nothing new could be created in many areas of information technology now.
When we landed at our destination, we exchanged the pleasantries and moved on. Being a regular one on the mid night circuit, my usual cab driver picked me from the airport. While in the cab, my eyes caught the sight of a matchbox lying on the dashboard. I picked it up. Just then my attention went on a small letter printed on its side of the matchbox. And a sudden question cropped up in my mind.
I wondered what could be the reason for displaying a letter on the side of a matchbox. Is the manufacturer trying to achieve something through it? Is it just a marketing gimmick or something beyond what our naked eyes can see?
After spending considerable amount of time toying with this matchbox, I discovered that this is a well thought-out innovative concept, which had a direct impact on the overall cost of matchboxes. If you look at the image you can infer that the manufacturer has condensed the length of the brown colour strip from both sides of the matchbox. By doing so, the manufacturer reduced the quantity of red phosphorous in each matchbox, without impacting the functionality of the product.
On being measured, the size of the letter ‘Q’ turned out to be approximately 20% of the overall red phosphorous coated on the sides of the matchbox. This meant a saving of 20% phosphorous on each matchbox which meant that every five matchboxes left sufficient phosphorous to coat an additional matchbox without additional cost. Calculated over a large scale this savings turns out to be humungous.
The aforementioned revelation clearly accentuates the need to look at things from a different perspective. Innovation is a never-ending phenomenon and can be applied in diverse areas or situations. I strongly feel that developing such an attitude towards innovation is the true need of the hour.
To me the matchbox story and the thought process of this group appeared to be extremely contradictory. While there are people who strive to add innovation and value to the pettiest of things they do, there are many others who feel that the industry or work they indulge in, offers no room for innovation.
In the IT industry, where there is a solution available for almost everything, does it mean that there is no scope for innovation? If innovation is possible in a century old matchbox industry why can’t it be possible in the burgeoning IT industry? It’s indeed the perspective that requires change. Innovation lies in continuous improvement. All we need is the vision and the urge to add value to whatever we do. So, before we come to the conclusion that we have reached a dead end, and there is no scope for innovation, ask yourself the following questions:
- How much time do I dedicate every day to think something new?
- Do I really try to think differently in my day-to-day tasks?
- Can I not join / create a group of people who can practice on thinking something new?
- Have I prepared myself to think differently?
- How do I prepare myself to think differently?
If you get positive answers to the aforementioned questions, I am sure that embracing innovation will be quite easy in our everyday. Perhaps, this could be your contribution to the global industry and humankind at large.
It is important to understand that there is room for improvement and innovation in whatever we do. All what is required is the zeal and passion to achieve the same.