(U.S. Department of Commerce: Washington, D.C.) -- “We are finally the ‘in’ thing,” said Roger Kilmer, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to the more than 800 manufacturers and industry experts gathered at the Manufacturing Innovation 2012 conference on May 7, 2012, in Orlando, Florida. “Everyone—from the media to the political pundits to your neighbors—they’re all talking about manufacturing. It’s now clear: We need to be a nation that makes things.”
The annual conference helps manufacturers and other industry experts learn critical tools for ensuring that U.S. companies are constantly innovating and continually improving the products to compete in the global marketplace. The overarching theme of the meeting was, “Make it in America,” and through exhibits and conference talks, attendees learned about many companies succeeding in the marketplace with U.S.-made products.
“We don’t want to just tell you to be innovative,” said Kilmer. “We want to show you how to be innovative.” And to prove the point, he then introduced Rowan Gibson, innovation expert and author of Innovation to the Core (Harvard Business School Press, 2008). Gibson offered a four-part method for helping companies make sure that innovation does not “die in the boss’s office.”
Innovation, said Gibson, should be a systemic part of every company aspiring to greatness. “R&D alone is not enough,” he said. Every employee in the company should be part of a culture that views the world through “innovation lenses.”
True innovators, said Rowan, look at the world from one of four perspectives: challenging orthodoxy, harnessing trends, leveraging resources and core competencies, and understanding the needs—even the unvoiced needs—of their customers.
“You can win in the innovation economy,” said Gibson. “But there is a need for speed.” The rate of innovation has doubled in the last five years.
“A year from now,” he said, “you may wish that you had started today.”