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We live in a world of constantly accelerating change. Just as our personal lives are impacted by the continual changes that we must learn to adjust to, our companies are also impacted by a constant stream of unsettling changes. Changing customer demand patterns, expectations, and service requirements must be recognized and adjusted to effectively. Shifting standards must be met, new technolo­gies evaluated and employed, world-wide competitive threats contested, and myriad other "moving targets" must be sighted in and hit.

To achieve excellence, we cannot be satisfied with just accepting and adjusting to change. We must anticipate and initiate change if we hope to gain business rather than lose it. Innovation is the process of introducing or fostering change—the way to be leaders in dealing with change by being change agents, leading the way to better ways of doing things. We can and must learn how to innovate and be change pioneers rather than being dragged along by changes we can't control. We'll investigate the process of innovation, and see how we can increase our creativity and our ability to adapt to change.

One key to dealing with change is to become less isolated in our individual roles within our organization. If we are going to recognize and effect changes as quickly and well as we must, we need to break down the artificial barriers to interaction that keep us from communicating quickly and effectively. We must learn to interact well with others in different functional roles in order to deal with change and the ever-accelerating need to react quickly and well to the waves of changes. We will look at ways of increasing effective interaction within our over-structured organizations, and of interacting better in our own personal relationships.

There is great synergy in getting disparate parts of the organization to work together well, making a unified force from a diverse group of individuals or pulling together previously separate elements into a coordinated whole. By integrating the individuals or elements we can produce a

much more efficient result. The whole is indeed more than the sum of its parts. We will review several types of integration that we should work toward in our development of more change-capable companies.

The bottom line in attaining excellence is the degree of advancement we can achieve and sustain over time. We must be able to improve in many ways, in multiple dimen­sions, and in an ongoing continuous improvement mode if we are to be truly successful. We will examine the success­ful ways others have learned to improve dramatically— developing a "culture" that encourages and guides a con­stant quest for ways and means to make many incremental changes that add up to dramatic improvement over time.

Now let's look closer at each of the "Four I's," and see how they can be (and are being) used effectively to attain excellence.

Innovate

To innovate is to introduce something new, to make changes, or to bring in new ideas, improved methods, etc. Innovation can produce product improvements that increase con­sumer satisfaction and thus increase market share, as the Japanese have demonstrated so powerfully. Effective application of innovation spawns new products, new meth­ods and new ways of thinking. Innovative thinking can help change our perceptions (about quality, for example) stimulate our imaginations and expand our thinking so that we can satisfy the customer's real wants and needs.

Innovation carried through to its full effect leads ulti­mately to a paradigm shift. Futurist Joel Barker [1] has developed a complete set of observations and pertinent points about paradigms, summarized as follows:

A paradigm is a set of rules and regulations (written or unwritten) that establishes or defines boundaries and tells you how to behave inside these boundaries in order to be successful.

The paradigm effect causes us to view the world according to our own paradigms, and see things as we want to see them (not necessarily as they really are). It can "blind" us and prevent us from seeing new opportunities, markets, strategies, and creative solutions.

A. paradigm shift is a change to a new game, a new set of rules. When a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero. Past successes (under prior paradigms) guarantee nothing in the future, and may even be a hindrance. Paradigm shifters change the rules; paradigm pioneers are early shift disciples who help drive the new rules to reality.

The fundamental question to ask in driving a paradigm shift is: "What today is impossible to do in your business, but if it could be done, would fundamentally change what you do?"

Some other pertinent observations Barker makes about paradigms:

• Paradigms are useful in helping to solve problems (as long as you don't become a slave to old ones).

Your paradigm can become the (one and only) para­digm, resulting in contrary ideas being rejected out of hand. This leads to paradigm paralysis—the terminal disease of certainty.

• You can choose to see the world anew and change the rules and regulations (becoming a paradigm shifter, an innovator).

There are several far-reaching new paradigms, as William Turnquist [2] points out, all of which have in common a driving force to get better— little by little and day by day. These include Just-in-Time, World-Class Manufacturing, Continuous Improvement, Total Quality Management, Kaizen, and the pursuit of Excellence. With these new dominant paradigm s, change becomes part of the organiza­tional culture and the paradigms support change instead of blocking it. People are comfortable with change, and impossibilities become possible. As a result, major, dra­matic changes are often a by-product, rather than a forced effort.

We are also reminded by Dave Garwood and Michael Bane [3] that paradigms can be killers of innovation as well. The Swiss lost their dominant role in the world watch market by failing to see the implications of their invention of the digital watch which would shake their world. They did not even bother to protect their invention, thus letting others reap the benefits and take the watch market away from them. Their paradigm held that watches had mainsprings, ticked, and had hands, blinding them to the potential for their invention. Their own digital watch invention led to the demise of their market leadership—the paradigm shift blind-sided them.

While we're locked into our current paradigm we can't see change sneaking up on us, and are blind to the opportuni­ties shifting paradigms can bring our way. We must be able to adjust our perceptions to be able to recognize opportuni­ties for innovation as paradigms shift and become the new reality.

If we recognize that change (innovation) is a constant process that is best applied incrementally to solve a mul­titude of small problems over time, and can make small improvements that build on each other, we can accomplish tremendous feats. The Japanese have shown us how well this works. Their electronics industry, for example, dem­onstrated how to keep meeting and then raising their customers' expectations through a series of product and feature innovations that resulted in making their remote controls, sound separation, and distortion reduction the standards by which American consumers judged (and found wanting) all U.S. products.

We should strive to achieve paradigm shifts in new product development, supplier relationships, shop floor opera­tions, planning, organizational alignments, performance measurements, accounting, and systems. [3]

Creativity is at least partially born in us. However, we can all learn how to develop our creative and innovative talents (and especially our vigilance in watching for opportunities for productive innovation, making incremental changes that may grow into a new product, program, system or method). That can make all the difference in our quest for excellence.

One area where innovation is required if we are to achieve excellence is in changing the organizational structure to facilitate free communication among different functions within our organization, and with other outside organiza­tions. This will be a basis for effective interaction.

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