Embracing Variation for Innovation

Embracing Variation for Innovation

“A way to think about it is, innovation requires variation. And in manufacturing—six sigma, all that stuff—you’re trying to reduce variation. The fundamental manufacturing paradigm is to reduce variation, and the fundamental creative, innovation paradigm is to increase it.” - Reed Hastings

The ever-evolving landscape of business and technology calls for the need to innovate and adapt constantly. As companies strive to stay ahead of the curve, it becomes crucial for them to embrace the idea of variation. In his quote above, Netflix’s co-founder and CEO, Reed Hastings, encapsulates this idea.

In a world where efficiency and optimization are often the main focus, this quote serves as a reminder that innovation relies on the willingness to explore the unknown and embrace the unfamiliar. Traditional manufacturing processes, such as Six Sigma, aim to streamline operations by reducing variation and eliminating defects. While this approach has its merits, it can sometimes stifle creativity and innovation.

To foster innovation, companies need to shift their mindset from reducing variation to increasing it. This means encouraging experimentation, taking risks, and learning from failures. Organizations that embrace this approach are likely to discover new ideas and solutions that can help them maintain a competitive edge.

One way to increase variation is by fostering a culture of openness and collaboration within the organization. Encouraging employees to share their ideas, regardless of how unconventional they may seem, can lead to breakthroughs that otherwise would have been overlooked. This also includes creating an environment where failure is seen as an opportunity for learning and growth, rather than a setback.

Another way to embrace variation is by seeking out diverse perspectives. By bringing together individuals with different backgrounds, skills, and experiences, companies can tap into a wealth of knowledge and ideas. This diversity can help to challenge established norms and drive innovation.

Moreover, investing in research and development is essential for organizations to embrace variation. By allocating resources to R&D, companies can explore new technologies, methodologies, and approaches that can lead to innovative solutions. This may involve partnering with external organizations, such as universities or research institutions, to gain access to cutting-edge research and expertise.

Embracing variation is key to fostering innovation in today’s competitive business landscape. By shifting the focus from reducing variation to increasing it, organizations can unlock new ideas and solutions that can drive growth and success. By fostering a culture of openness, collaboration, and diversity, companies can ensure that they stay ahead of the curve and continue to thrive in an ever-changing world.