Dodge the stone

Get a “passenger” and avoid damage

The other day I read in the newspaper about a tragic accident. A motorist had crashed into a stone in the center of a newly constructed traffic circle. He had not seen the stone. He drove the work route twice a day and thought he knew it blind.

Such accidents also happen in companies, and every innovation, which is what research and development is all about, becomes a rock you drive into if you can’t leave well-rehearsed processes and thoughts behind.

Now it sounds so easy with leaving the routine – but it’s not. The daily business needs the routine and there is hardly any time for dissipated thoughts, the source of creativity.

One solution to the dilemma is to have a companion who has a different point of view, a kind of “co-driver.” He can more quickly see where the stones are and draw attention to them in time. This allows the driver to take evasive action and avoid greater damage.

Co-driver as coach brings new perspectives

I had a mandate as an R&D coach that had the same background. Approaches to reducing the cost of its components should be identified for a product. Although the project team included proven experts in high-voltage technology, they did not want to miss any options that could have been obscured by possible operational blindness. Therefore, regardless of theirs, I should design and evaluate the potential for cost savings.

To do this, I checked with my customer about the product and gathered the necessary information – specification, plans, limitation, constraints and cost. We agreed not to share any existing cost reduction ideas so I wasn’t biased.

Then, I first divided the product into major components and created cost reduction ideas for each of those components. I have drawn on literature and patent research to do this. For all my concepts I have created an estimate of the cost reduction.

The results were discussed intensively at the customer’s premises. Much was also on his list and confirmed to him the potential of the measures. Some ideas, on the other hand, were new and opened up new possibilities for him. With my help as a “passenger”, he was able to spot the stone in the middle of the traffic circle early.

The driver had to go to hospital, but survived without any long-term damage – he was lucky.

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