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GM Carves Out Space for Innovation

Posted By Jeff Moad, June 05, 2014 at 1:13 PM, in Category: The Innovation Enterprise

Most manufacturing engineers live in a very predictable, repeatable world. Standardized work is the goal, and engineers work very hard to eliminate exceptions. So how can you encourage engineers on your team to break away from standard ways of thinking and innovate in new ways?

This was one of the challenges that Cathy Clegg faced a year and a half ago when she took over as vice president for global manufacturing engineering at General Motors. Clegg’s answer? Carve out dedicated time for innovation in engineers’ schedules, create “sandbox” physical spaces in which engineers are encouraged to interact and share their ideas, and regularly rotate people into and out of innovation teams to encourage engagement and the spread of an innovation culture.

Clegg, who delivered a keynote address at the Manufacturing Leadership Summit, says these efforts have paid off for GM and its engineering organization. Teams in recent months have come up with 500 innovative new ideas, 12 of which have already been implemented.

Innovations include technology-based projects such as one that uses Google Glass to train operators on paint sealing best practices. And innovations have been less technical, such as new processes that permit the reuse of packaging materials.

Overall, says Clegg, the idea is to encourage an innovation culture to take root and flourish in GM’s vast engineering organization.

What have you done to create a culture of innovation in your organization?

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit

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