Against the backdrop of ever accelerating technological developments, many manufacturing and processing companies are unsure how to withstand the increasing pressure to innovate in their own business environment. Research and development work should, of course, also pay off economically - but how can you ensure that your own innovation work functions well enough to make this possible?

One thing should be clear by now: The pressure to innovate felt by German industry is increasing and increasing. A look at Asia shows this, as do the hard figures from the management consultancy Staufen, which already asked around in 2016 for its Industry Monitor: Innovation. Even then, 40 percent of the companies surveyed were unsure how to organize their innovation work against the backdrop of new and increasingly rapid technological developments. In the electrical industry, even more than half of the companies were unsure in this respect.

However, not only a look at the figures, but also a look in one's own pocket shows how the pressure to innovate is: Today's smartphones can already do almost everything - at least as far as one is concerned - and yet manufacturers are constantly coming up with new functions, improved cameras and even the introduction of foldable cell phones. Admittedly: Many of the new functions are quite useful, but some seem dispensable. This begs the question: How do you reconcile the pressure to innovate with sales potential? Which innovations are necessary or even overdue in our own company, and which innovations can we do without? And how must our innovation work change in order to distinguish top ideas from total economic failures? After all, what is the point of investing millions in research and development if the resulting products cannot recoup the expenditure?

Innovation work must adapt - and in many places it is already doing so

Innovation and technological progress are therefore the most important foundations for economic growth and the competitiveness of companies. Many companies have already recognized the signs of the times: More than two-thirds of the companies participating in the Staufen study report that their innovation work is proceeding differently than in the past; in the electrical industry, the figure is even more than 90 percent. And in the automotive industry, too, the pressure to innovate is higher than ever, as Manager Magazin reports. In this context, 82 percent of the big players in the automotive industry feel that their own companies are well equipped in terms of innovation work - but according to 49 percent of those surveyed, the competition is not as well prepared.

The reasons for these different views of reality are unclear. But the question remains: What must innovation work look like in order to be well equipped for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow - even when a disruptive competitor emerges?

Does your innovation work stand up to the pressure?

The principles of lean management have already proven successful in the past. Particularly in recent years, the management principle has been experiencing a resurgence in Germany as well - and for good reason. Especially the rules of product development according to the system Lean Development enable a contemporary innovation work:

  1. Your product portfolio and its further development should be aligned with your corporate strategy. If the two no longer match, you should refine or rethink your product portfolio or your corporate strategy.

  2. Work towards high customer satisfaction. Fixation on customer value is a powerful driver of ideas and development - so look for your customers' pain points.

  3. Try to shorten your development times as much as possible and at the same time push down the development costs. The first attempt does not have to be perfect. Instead, rely on the Japanese work philosophy Kaizen or the principle of continuous improvement.
Even beyond borrowing from lean principles, modern innovation work should take certain points to heart
  1. The focus on customer benefits is helpful, but the focus on economic success is more of a hindrance. Only around 40 percent of innovations achieve market success and pay off for the company. Even in the automotive industry, which is among the leaders in terms of innovation success, only about 50 percent of all ideas are successful. Innovation can also be an end in itself or bring other unexpected synergies: Innovation work promotes interdisciplinary learning, empowers your employees, binds them to your company, and incidentally trains creativity in dealing with customer requirements.

  2. consider where your ideas come from in the first place. Do your employees have the technical skills in terms of technology? Do your employees feel empowered to innovate? That is, are they motivated and skilled enough? If you are unsure:
    • Work on creativity techniques
    • Train your employees
    • Revise your suggestion system
    • Take customer inquiries and complaints seriously
    • Conduct market analysis and monitor technolgies

  3. Involve third parties. It may sound unconventional, but have you ever thought about cooperating with one of your fiercest competitors? The resulting synergies and the knowledge transfer that takes place can be extremely helpful for both sides.

  4. rethink your concept of innovation: innovation does not always equal product innovation - process innovation can also be an economically and qualitatively significant advance.


As the pace of technological progress increases, the pressure on companies to innovate is likely to continue to rise for the foreseeable future - as has been the case in recent years and decades. Those who do not want to be overtaken by old or new competitors should review their innovation work and adapt it if necessary.

Good innovation work is oriented in a reciprocal relationship to the strategic orientation of your company, but also to a strong fixation on customer wishes and needs, short development times and the basic principles of lean development. Moreover, innovation work does not exclusively refer to product innovations, but also to process innovations - and this is where LEWA Attendorn can help you. If you would like to accelerate, streamline or completely automate your processes through clever innovations, please feel free to contact us at any time for a non-binding analysis and consultation.

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