APICS Supply Chain Management Now

Succeeding with Help from the Design World

By APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi CSCP, CPA, CAE - September 23, 2011

Succeeding with Help from the Design World

It's interesting to think about how ideas outside of operations and supply chain management can influence and overcome challenges we face inside the field. Earlier this month, Harvey Schachter, a management columnist for Toronto's Globe and Mail, wrote about design thinking and the book, Designing for Growth, by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie.

Liedtka and Ogilvie summarize design thinking in four questions to ask when handling a problem. The first is, "What is?" Schachter writes, "in developing new ideas, we often rush to engage the future, but in fact we find clues to the future in dissatisfactions with the present." The next question is "What if?" It should include the myriad possibilities for the future. Third is "What wows?" It "encourages us to winnow down the ideas generated into something that packs a wallop," Schachter writes. The last question is "What works?" Ideas have to be tested.

According to Schachter, "when it comes to fostering business growth, the talent that we are interested in is not rooted in either natural gifts or studio training__it lies with having a systematic approach to problem solving."

The discussion of this piece in the Globe and Mail reminded another APICS staffperson of A Whole New Mind, a 2006 book by Daniel H. Pink. In his book, Pink argues that society is moving into a post-information age, which he calls the "conceptual age." Further, he contends that to survive and prosper, society needs to transition from predominantly left-brain thinking (accountants, lawyers, executives) to more right-brain thinking (artists, storytellers, innovators), developing and cultivating design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. In an age when more and more goods and services are becoming commodities, design has become a key differentiator for successful companies. For example, there already were several MP3 players on the market when the iPod arrived. Right-brained creativity can help professionals and companies distinguish themselves in an increasingly homogenized marketplace. 

Asking questions and advancing your career

The ideas presented in Designing for Growth and A Whole New Mind aren't revolutionary, but they can help operations and supply chain management professionals rethink problems to find new and innovative solutions. The APICS body of knowledge contains similar tools that can enhance your management and problem solving. For instance, consider the five whys as they are defined in the APICS Dictionary, 13th edition: "The common practice in total quality management is to ask "why" five times when confronted with a problem. By the time the answer to the fifth "why" is found, the ultimate cause of the problem is identified."

The 2011 APICS International Conference & Expo, October 23-25, 2011, includes an entire learning path dedicated to professional advancement. Educational sessions in this learning path will demonstrate how to examine significant forces affecting career progress, interpret them holistically, and harness them to move forward. Attendees will learn to see new possibilities and strategically position themselves for long-term success__regardless of rapidly changing outside influences.

I encourage you to attend this pivotal and worthwhile conference that exemplifies the theme "Achieving Sustainable Productivity: Meeting Customer Demand in an Unpredictable World." Can you and your career afford to miss it?

In other news

How APICS Operations Management Now relates to you

Operations management is everywhere. Today, operations management professionals have unprecedented impacts on the global economy. Consider these questions and how today's edition of APICS Operations Management Now relates to you and your career.

  • In what ways can you "think like a designer" in your own career?
  • What other popularized products resemble the iPod in their approaches to design?
  • In what different ways can you apply the five whys approach to problem solving? 


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