Innovation revolves around customer need

Without customers, a business wouldn’t exist. The purpose of a business is to create value for customers. It’s a creative capacity, not a consumptive capacity. Therefore, the right goals are goals that contribute something that the customer ultimately buys. Something that satisfies the customer.

To make this tangible, imagine you were a part of a team that assembled a chair. If your job was to assemble the armrests, and you found a way to cut armrest assembly time in half, you wouldn’t necessarily improve the whole process. It likely would still take just as long to assemble a chair. And even worse, the backlog may cause problems in the process. You might have to find a way to store and retrieve the excess armrests. None of this would benefit the customer or the organization; in fact it could do the opposite.

The customer doesn’t benefit from the armrests being assembled quickly.

Take all the people in charge of assembling individual parts and task them collectively with assembling the entire chair, if you do this, their improvements will likely align with the interests of the customer.

For example, if they can find a way to cut down the time it takes to assemble the entire chair, that’s something a customer would notice. Especially if your organization produces custom chairs, the ability to quickly turn around a custom chair could be something the customer appreciates.

Which brings me to the next point, take the time to determine what it is you think your customers value and collectively use that as fodder for improvements. If customers routinely ask for faster turn around time on custom chairs, make that a collective objective. Customers might want greater durability, prestige or merely comfort. These are the things everyone in the organization should be tasked with, not merely assembling a part of the chair.

This holds true no matter what type of work you’re engaged in. Even in purely digital products, if you slice and dice how the work is done, you are likely to see sub-optimal improvements that don’t optimize the whole, let alone optimize the whole in a fashion that the customer is willing to pay for.