These days, innovation is a word that is practically guaranteed to pique the interest of those involved in business. Whether you are a producer or a consumer, it promises something novel and exciting.
The term can mean different things to different people, and it is of course not limited to products. Process innovation, or simply doing things better, has the power to fundamentally change the way in which firms produce and deliver their products or services.
At the extremes, innovative change may involve delicate refinement and tuning or a revolutionary and destructive paradigm shift that gives rise to an entirely new business model.
Of what we can be certain is that a spark of innovation is more likely to come from those who are blessed with an open and inquiring mind.
The August 2015 issue of Wired illustrates this beautifully with a fascinating article on collaboration between British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) platinum member GlaxoSmithKline and McLaren Applied Technologies. This partnership is in Maidenhead, Berkshire, where Formula 1-thinking was employed to boost efficiency of a toothpaste factory.
According to the article, McLaren saw similarities between the changing, cleaning and retooling of a production line, and an F1 pit stop.
To the firm, downtime is not dead time; they see a pit stop as an opportunity to win a race. Taking on board their perspective and through a process of planning, simulation, debriefing and continuous improvement, the factory workers were ultimately able to slash production line changeover time by 60%, which resulted in the capacity to manufacture an additional 20mn tubes of toothpaste per year.
Lessons for business
This kind of fresh and insightful thinking is a treasured commodity in business and something that the BCCJ would like to encourage and see flourish. For this reason we are proud to have introduced a new category of excellence at this year’s British Business Awards (BBA), with an award for innovation.
I hope you will take the opportunity to congratulate the winner by joining us for the gala evening on 13 November at the Palace Hotel Tokyo.
We look forward to welcoming you back when the chamber resumes its activities in September.
Please mark your diaries for upcoming events featuring Robert Walters, founder of the eponymous recruitment firm, and Lord Chris Patten, former chairman of the BBC Trust. In addition, our Community Hub event will again be presented in the compelling and highly entertaining PechaKucha format.
We will also have the unrivalled pleasure of enjoying the hospitality of our friends at the Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce. As always, this promises to be one of our most popular events, with solace from the late summer heat guaranteed.