Thursday, April 20, 2006

Innovation, Leadership, Sales and Lean Manufacturing

This past week, as I was visiting a few manufacturing companies in Cincinnati, I found a few hours of free time in my schedule. Nearby was a popular bookstore chain so I popped in to catch up on the new publications.

Although it came as no surprised to me, the business section was filled with only a limited number of topics. What I found most interesting was how many different books were available on these select few "Hot Topics" . Based on these hot topics, it appears that the only things important in business today is to learn how to innovate, learn how be a leader, and just sell more.

In my unscientific survey, the hottest topic/trend in business today is innovation. Just check out the latest BusinessWeek, Fast Company or Business 2.0. and the fast selling books on the subject. It seems that the answer top business people are looking for to "grow" their companies is to improve their innovation. Innovation is the last hope for American business, if you believed everything you read. All we need is a better mousetrap to compete in the global marketplace.

The second most popular topic is probably leadership. The leadership books come in all shapes, sizes and forms. New leaders, political leaders, CEOs, famous people, and even fictional characters (leadership by Winnie-the-Pooh), all have important lessons for management on how to lead. I wonder who is actually buying these types of books and which CEOs have read what books to help formulate their management foundation. It just a little bit scary to think that based on the popularity of the leadership topic that many executives really don't know how to lead. By just reading the business headlines an any given day, I guess it is not a stretch to see that strong leadership qualities are hard to find in many companies.

Finally, I found a hoard of sales/marketing books on the shelves. Once we have our new mousetrap, we need to sell it. Make every man, woman and child believe that they need whatever we are selling and that can be done through marketing. You know what they say, increased sales solves all the business problems in world.

What was lacking in my search were lean manufacturing related books. I only found 2 books out of the hundreds across several shelves. What does this tell you about lean in mainstream American business today. Lean is not a hot topic. I'm sure if you compare lean blogs to blogs on innovation, leadership and sales/marketing, the same holds true. That's really a shame since those of us that have witnesses the power of lean principles know the positive impact lean principles can have on a company.

If you want to be a best selling business author, you should make the title of your next book "Innovative Sales Leadership". It is sure to hit number 1 on the bestseller lists.

1 comment:

Bill Waddell said...

Ironically, Mike, if I were in charge of sales and wanted to demonstrate some "innovative sales leadership", I would push my employer to become a lean manufacturer.

Sales wouls be easy if I could offer a high quality, cost competitive product in any configuration and quantity the customer wants, with short lead times.

Anyone can be an 'Innovative Sales Leadership' if they have a lean manufacturer backing them up. Unfortunately, however, when the book you suggest is written, I don't think this will be the gist of it