Can the popular Six Sigma framework be adapted to look at innovation?
Much has been written about how a formal Six Sigma approach and a formal approach to innovation cannot co-exist. But is that really true?
On the surface these two formal approaches personify the natural tension between exploitation and exploration activities within any organization. Six Sigma is generally thought of as an exploitation activity, while innovation is usually associated with exploration. When I speak of exploitation, I’m not speaking of child labor and deforestation, but of optimizing the transformation of organization’s inputs into profitable outputs under its existing business model. And when I speak of exploration, I’m referring to the organization’s efforts to pursue new potential business models, new product or service areas, or both.
Let’s look back before we look forward.