Sunday, March 12, 2006

Raising the Median - Innovation

Build a better mousetrap and ...

Our world suffers from an acute lack of innovation. That's right - that's what I think. Despite all the great new products in our world, we are unbelievably under-innovated.

And that's because we rarely stop to actually try to actively innovate in our businesses. As pointed out in a recent book review over at, innovation doesn't have to be large. But way too often, we just proceed along our merry way, thinking we already have the best available.

One of my best stories in this regard is surgical tools. You'd think that those in the medical industry, and surgeons themselves, being smart, ambitious people, would be using the best possible medical implements, which MUST be subject to constant scrutiny for improvement and re-design. As it turns out, however, the scalpel hadn't really been changed for nearly 100 years. It's still essentially the same sharpened butter knife that it was back then. Difficult for a surgeon to hold and manipulate, and subject to cutting themselves or their co-workers.

Enter Lee Valley Tools with their quality wood-working tools and Dr. Bell. Turns out that many surgeons enjoy woodworking - it both clears their mind of worries, and improves their surgery skills. One day, Dr. Bell talked to the owner - Leonard Lee - and complained about corrosion on his carving tool. Mr. Lee was rather surprised, but asked what he was doing with it.

Dr. Bell replied ...
"Well, I've only autoclaved it about a half dozen times."
Obviously, Mr. Lee then realized it was being used for surgery. A wood-working tool turned out to be a better surgical instrument, than one which was supposedly "designed" for surgery. Read the rest of the story here, including the start of a brand new business for Mr. Lee.

Under-innovated; that's my opinion on our society. Let your employees mingle with some customers and suppliers, and some in other fields for one or two hours a month. Then ask them what innovations, large and small, they think that your business might be able to enjoy.

Other resources:


The Confused Capitalist

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