While the mass producers who are agog about innovation are right in line with the hare in the old ‘Tortoise and the Hare’ parable, lean manufacturers are a blend of the tortoise’s long term view and hare-like ability to change direction. While Ford and GM pine for the days when they had a product that thrilled the market, I can name no such Toyota product. Instead, they have had thirty or forty years of a range of good quality products – not a Mustang among ’em ‘ – and the ability to make whichever of them in any quantity the customers wanted. They have not led the market in minivans or hybrid cars, but they have been ready to move into them quickly and effectively when the market wanted them.
It seems to me that innovation is the darling of the professional manager who has been unable to grasp lean manufacturing. They are plodding down the highway, baffled that everyone else is going so much faster than them, unable to recognize the concept of the wheel. Most of them will still be trying to figure out a faster way to get from point A to point B than walking when they are laid in their graves with tire tracks running the length of their backs.