Driving Eureka!: Problem-Solving With Data-Driven Methods & The Innovation Engineering System, by Doug Hall
To a great extent, this book felt like a sales pitch. I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing, since it appeared as if the pitch was for the sort of project whose worth I can appreciate, but there are a great many readers who may see the worth of data-driven methods as well as the importance of systems in encouraging and institutionalizing innovation that may not find this book to be as enjoyable because it reads like an extended (more than 250 page) long pitch for a company to send its employees to become innovation black belts and hire the author’s firm as a consultant to help create innovation systems that will allow for powerful improvements in efficiency and to unleash creativity. Again, speaking personally, I saw a great deal of worth in what the author had to say, but felt him to be somewhat of a used-car salesman type, and that didn’t always make me think of him as the most credible witness for his principles, especially when he tried to cast off blame for some of the failed companies that he and his firm had been associated with that had tried to become innovative too late in their death throes.
The contents of this book are divided into thirteen chapters and various supplemental material at the end. After an introduction, where the author gives two ways to read the book that did not include just reading it straight through (which I did), the author spends two chapters seeking to create an awareness of the problem of innovation, with a chapter on the problem that companies need innovation (1) and the solution of innovation engineering as an approach to this problem (2). After that the author writes about innovation agreement (3) and the need for a system (4). Then there are four chapters on various aspects of the learning mindset, including the three innovation principles (5), the create system (6), how to communicate the system (7), and how to commercialize it (8). There are then a few chapters to close the book that deal with aligning subsystems (9), how to deal with the collaboration cafe (10) and Merwyn rapid research (11) subsystems, working on patent return-on-investment (12), and creating an innovation culture within a company (13). After that there is a backstory on Dr. Deming, an interview with Kevin Cahill of the Deming Institute, some information on the author, an index, and an excerpt from one of the author’s other books on his trip to the North Pole.
What should someone expect out of this book? For one, this book strongly urges companies to encourage innovation culture from the top down in several ways, by making communication much easier for everyone in the company, developing systems that allow for innovation projects of various kinds and that encourage failing fast and cheap and making such attempts painless for those who form ideas and explore possibilities for improvements. The author urges that companies pay attention to patents that make it possible to gain licensing income even on things that the company does not make itself that may prove profitable, and to understand that the vast majority of inefficiencies and variances are due to systems (which are the responsibility of management) and not due to errors by employees, who often are dealing with variable materials that are the source of most difficulties. Whether or not a reader seeks to become a customer of the author’s firm, there is material here worth paying attention to, even if it is definitely true that the author (like many authors) likes to talk about himself too much in an attempt to paint himself as an authority on innovation engineering.