Is Problem-Solving the same as Innovation?

Do you have productivity issues in your business? Do you think your team could be working more efficiently in some areas? Are there known problems that repeatedly raise their ugly head, causing delays and frustration? In your business do you approach problem-solving the same as innovation?

Many quality companies have an ‘issue’ log which is used to capture recurring problems, and assign an owner to investigate the root cause, to prevent it from recurring. However, all too often the person responsible has no training in any form of root cause analysis. Assuming you can find the root cause(s), often the corrective actions put in place may not resolve the issue permanently.

Left-brained or Right-brained Thinker?

You may ask what does problem-solving have to do with innovation. It is stated that most people prefer either logical or intuitive thinking, and people often describe themselves as one or the other. But this can be self-limiting. The reality is most of us are a bit of both. Engineers who love maths might be thought of as logical thinkers, but dig deeper and we find they are also quite creative people, responsible for building bridges, tunnels, aircraft, software programs, etc.
Increasingly, universities are recognising the need for people to have a broader approach to innovation, and introduce all types of thinking in their degrees now. The older universities still teach Lean Six Sigma which is an important, disciplined, data and statistical analysis tool, but the younger universities are putting poets with scientists to develop broader thinking styles in their graduates. For example, you’ve probably heard of de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, in use since 1985, a method which uses diverse perspectives to encourage creativity to a problem or an innovation.

So, is problem-solving the same as innovation? By training your teams and encouraging the use of various types of thinking when approaching productivity or quality problems, the solutions can be innovative and your business will reap the rewards.