Applying lean in product development – enabler or inhibitor of creativity?
April 13, 2015 Editor 0
Lean has become increasingly popular as a process management approach outside its original application in manufacturing, and it is frequently used as a means to increase efficiency in research and development (R&D) processes. Previous research suggests that lean can be used to increase R&D efficiency, but there is disagreement on whether or not this comes at the expense of creativity. In this article, the effects of lean product development on creativity are studied by means of case studies in the R&D departments of five companies. The empirical observations highlighted a number of important aspects when applying lean in product development. The data suggested that a primary focus of lean in product development was flow, rather than waste reduction, and that significant focus was given to the reduction of disturbances. Another finding was the need for a long-term perspective in R&D to safeguard creativity and that the reduction of slack time following the implementation of lean clearly limited the opportunities to undertake unsanctioned innovation projects, often referred to as ‘skunk work’. Finally, the importance of management support and employee training to aid the implementation of lean was emphasised.
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