The New Innovation

A world away from Bell Labs’ heyday

Innovation in today’s highly competitive global business environment looks very different than it did during Bell Labs’ Golden Age.

In a new book, author Jon Gertner tells the tale of the legendary and behemoth Bell Labs in The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation.

At that time, it really was the greatest laboratory in the world, Gertner said in an NPR interview.

"[Bell Labs] was a monopoly, and we now live in a time where the concept of monopoly is largely discredited, probably for many good reasons. But are there things about Bell Labs that are worth thinking about, that are worth learning from? Certainly, the idea that it could think long-term and short-term at the same time, I think are particularly valuable," he said.

"We have tremendously innovative companies in the private sector that are thinking shorter-term and understandably so, but maybe things have gotten out of balance in terms of companies able to create innovations or work years or decades ahead for things that may pay off in the long run."

Differences and parallels aside, the story is a fascinating one. In this issue, we focus on innovation, and its implications and opportunities for the quality profession.

"Up and Away" details five methods that can help light a fire under quality teams to get those creative juices flowing. These methods—including DeepDive, Million Dollar Meeting and Seven Ways—help organizations identify ideas and new ways of doing things that have allowed them to save money and work more efficiently.

In the article "In the Spotlight," Jane Keathley writes: "How can quality professionals combat this prevalent thinking that quality management results in a lack of innovation, quality tools are just standardized checklists and procedures, and quality teams are the audit police?"

She explains why—and how—quality managers are uniquely positioned to enhance innovation efforts, not stifle them.

She calls out the skills and attributes inherent in the quality professional and shows how they can be leveraged into innovation-based jobs and opportunities.

Author Peter Merrill also underscores the need for innovation and why organizations must break free of thinking only in terms of fitness for use in "Quality for Tomorrow." Customer delight is no longer a nice-to-have; customer delight is the requirement.

Interested in getting involved with the ASQ Quality Management Division’s Innovation and Value Creation Technical Committee? Find out more here

Seiche Sanders

Seiche Sanders

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