Innovation Vs Problem Solving

“If you are forced to solve the same problem over and over again, you don’t really understand the problem.” ~ Jeffrey Summers

The Problem With Problems

Most operators want to engage in problem solving, only to have the problem pop back up if the variables at play when they first encountered it, change enough for their course of action to become ineffective. This is a vicious cycle. It’s caused more band-aids to be applied to more operations than you can imagine.

When it comes to problems you have two choices:

  1. Adapt to the effects of the problem or simply try to live with them (adaptive action—a bucket under a leaky roof) or
  2. Correct it by eliminating the cause (fix the hole in the roof—corrective action).

But if you know the cause of your problem, then you no longer have a problem. You have a decision to make as to how to deal with it—remove it or live with it.

These illustrations show the difference between fixing a problem and innovating through a problem.

In the first scenario, you have standard performance.  Then something happens to cause a decline in that performance. Alarms go off signaling the need for action in order to stem the decline. A fix is applied, returning the issue to the standard performance level prior to the decline.

You have not affected performance. You have merely stemmed the decline.

Now in the second illustration we see the effects of innovation.

At some point along the performance path someone gets an idea for improvement.

The individual takes the initiative to apply the innovative solution which leads to improved performance.


Real World Example

Most operators are stuck in the first position. Something happens to food cost and it rises compared to the historical result. A fix is applied to bring it back to ‘normal’.

Our approach is to not just fix the problem but to innovate though the issue so that the result is an improved outcome.

So instead of returning your food cost to the original level it was prior to the issue that caused it to rise, we look at innovating the process in order to have an even lower food cost or in never having food cost issues ever again.

The food cost issue is a good example because it highlights a non-issue: food cost. The real problem is a lack of margin, which is caused by one of several other poor decisions having been made throughout the process.

Innovation Vs Problem Solving | Jeffrey Summers