Employees doing the hardest work almost always have the best view of how to improve the work they do. But all too often this insight into work process is squandered simply because no one asks for their feedback. They are paid to work, not to think, no? No. Not at Toyota.
An elegant solution to a universal business problem
Toyota is world-famous for their ability to listen to their front-line workforce and extract remarkable insights from the people in the know.
Toyota implements a million new ideas a year, and most of them come from ordinary workers. (Japanese companies get a hundred times as many suggestions from their workers as U.S. companies do.) Most of these ideas are small—making parts on a shelf easier to reach, say—and not all of them work. But cumulatively, every day, Toyota knows a little more, and does things a little better, than it did the day before.
Toyota recognized the key fact that most people come up with innovation as they perform a process. That great idea about how a product could be improved, how hiring could be sped up, how the asset disposition losses could be reduced, how marketing and sales campaigns could be made more effective – all of these come at the time of performing the process. They literally leap into the mind and refuse to be silenced.
They almost never come while sitting meetings in the the corner office.
Getting to 1,000,000 ideas
In the past, it’s been a matter of good management and kludging together some sort of system to capture insights and lessons learned. Most fell through the cracks. They are “Acceptable breakage” in some slow changing industries.
You gain a massive competitive advantage by being the company that can capture and convert more of these insights into new products and more efficient ways to do things. It has to be dead easy and available to everyone.
I’m a consultant that works on a daily basis with the customers who need this capability the most. . The Toyota model is my inspiration and I enjoy giving their people this power.