Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Innovation isn’t easy for companies that embrace the discipline of Six Sigma, says West Michigan consultant Ralph Niemiec, managing partner of Twisthink LLC.

Innovation requires variation, failure and serendipity, and those are not typical qualities of companies making cars and parts.

“I respect and appreciate that in the auto industry, (quality-control tool) Six Sigma is embraced and vitally important, but the spirit of innovation cannot be constrained in the way that Six Sigma constrains,” Niemiec says here at the Management Briefing Seminars. “If the pendulum swings too far in one direction, don’t be surprised if innovation takes a hit.”

Twisthink, which offers industrial design services, helps companies in eight industries, including automotive, add innovation to their operations.

“Many of our clients are trapped in the commodity category,” Niemiec says, and they want to move their products into the more profitable realm of innovation.

“From what I’ve seen in the last seven years, it’s a leadership issue,” he says.

He quotes Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs on the need to try new things: “If you’re not failing now and again, you’re not doing anything innovative.”