Ten Practices for Making Innovation

After Lean Management which is a “Toyota” much acclaimed management system to be model from for our busineeses, I take much pleasure in sharing the practices of Toyota in making Innovation happen.

Mathew E. May showcases the following Ten Practices that Toyota has adopted on its core principles towards making Innovation happen:

1. Let Learning Lead
“Learning and innovation go hand in hand, but learning comes first.” Education and Learning can drive substantial innovation.

2. Learn to See
“Elegant solutions often come from customers — get out more and live in their world.” The key is to unearth the latent needs of the customers, and perceive the emerging needs.

3. Design for Today
“Focus on clear and present needs, or your great ideas remain just that.” Innovation that drives business in today’s market is likely to get funded and succeed.

4. Think in Pictures
“Make your intentions visual — you’ll surprise yourself with the image.” In Six ways to find innovation, we talked about the need for visual imagery.

5. Capture the Intangible
“The most compelling solutions are often perceptual and emotional.” This is where the product manager needs intuition and the ability to read their customers’ minds.

6. Leverage the Limits
“Restraining forces rule — resource constraints can spur ingenuity.” It is critical to know what you can deliver, how you can deliver and by when.

7. Master the Tension
“Breakthrough thinking demands something to break through.” In Failures and Stumbles driving innovation, we talked about the five takeaways stimulating innovation. Accept that mistakes will be made.

8. Run the Numbers
“Think for yourself — temper instinct with insight, focus on facts, and do the math.” A sound technical analysis is critical before you begin a new product innovation. This should take into account such factors as risks, probabilities of success, and lessons learned from past projects.

9. Make Kaizen Mandatory
“Pursuing perfection requires great discipline — create a standard, follow it, and find a better way.” A process is a must have. Think Six Sigma. Think Rigor at Intuit.

10. Keep It Lean
“Complexity kills — scale it back, make it simple, and let it flow.” Innovation happens when you can simplify the intended application and make it so easy-to-use that it becomes a no-brainer.


Toyota has become the dominant car maker today based on large part due to the Innovation Factory. A Factory based on a foundation of creating elegant solutions through three guiding principles, avoiding three “temptations” and driving ten production practices.

“Toyota is becoming a double threat: the world’s finest manufacturer and a truly great innovator . . . that formula, a combination of production prowess and technical innovation, is an unbeatable recipe for success.”

* Fortune, February 2006


Matthew E. May: “The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation”. Free Press. 2006.


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