TLM 022 Innovation Engineering with David Mixson

TLM 022 Innovation Engineering with David Mixson

Innovation Engineering Deficit?


Are you plagued with IADD? As I spoke with my guest, David Mixson, he just coined the phrase Innovation Attention Deficit Disorder!  Join me on this episode,  to see if you and your business have fallen prey.

David with his experience in the field of economic development works with companies around the state to increase profits through a David Mixsonvariety of means.   He is based at Auburn University working through ATN Alabama Technology Network, a  -5:02 function of MEP Manufacturing Extension Partnership ,a division NIST National Institute of Standards and Technologies. Their purpose is to help companies create jobs, maintain jobs through new products  or new processes, improving efficiency of their operations with a wide verity of resources.

– 10:42 The term Innovation Engineering was first used by Doug Hall, who spent many years with Proctor & Gamble bringing many new products to market. One year he put out a record nine products! He later founded his own organization, Eureka Ranch, which for over the last twenty years has been building on the premise that ideas must be Meaningfully Unique.

Social-InnovationThe idea must:

  1. Have a clear benefit “Promise”
  2. It must have credibility or “Proof”

Innovation Engineering can be thought of as a system of looking at what could be called the fuzzy front end.   Things like: idea creation, idea generation, and idea mining-looking forward.

– 17:00 A Google search on the word innovation yields 285 million results; An Amazon search on the word innovation yields 224 thousand results.

The formal definition for Innovation Engineering is: Meaningfully Unique.  If you’re not meaningfully unique you’d better be cheap!


  • What is the problem?

  • What is the promise?

  • And what is the proof?

– 18:05 Nissan innovation that excites! And Infiniti Q50, predictive forward collision technology

If we build it, will they really come?   Innovation Engineering teaches us to fail fast, fail cheap and get smarter.  Does anybody care about what we think is an innovation?   The first idea you come up with in many cases is wrong in some area, the promise, the product, or the profitability of it.

-30:00  Are we bringing our product and process ideas to market effectively or do we have Innovation Attention Deficit Disorder?

Innovation Engineering teaches us to spend that extra time on the “Fuzzy Front End” of idea creation and commercialization in a systematic way to get the maximum out of an idea in terms of solving problems and maximizing profits.

Why do we have so many heroes and so few farmers?

Why do we have so many heroes, so few farmers, and such poor results in most of our organizations?  Because we’re blind to the simple fact that business heroes usually fail to transform businesses.   They create short-term improvements at least on official metrics.

The gemba walk can, and should, help focus us on asking three simple questions (1) Is the business purpose of the process correctly defined?  (2) Is action steadily being taken to create value, flow, and pull in every step of the process while taking out waste?  (3) Are all the people touching the process actively engaged in making it better?

This is the gemba  mentality of the farmer who year after year plows a straight furrow, mends the fence, and obsesses about the weather.  Sometimes not very heroic, but by challenging the people engaged in the process we motivate the team towards steady and consistently process improvement.

Adapted from:  Gemba Walks by Jim Womack