Lean Blog Interviews — 434: Ben Bensaou: From Lean Production to ”Built to Innovate”

Professor at INSEAD, author of “Built to Innovate”

Show notes: https://www.leanblog.org/434

My guest for Episode #434 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Ben Bensaou. He is an INSEAD professor and author of Built to Innovate: Essential Practices to Wire Innovation into Your Company’s DNA.

Ben earned his PhD at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where I was an MBA student. He was part of Jim Womack‘s research team that studied the auto industry and that group coined the term “Lean.”

He’s joining us from Kobe, Japan, where he is on sabbatical.

Today, we discuss topics and questions including:

  • I’m curious to hear your memories and reflections of the Womack research era
  • “Japanese management model”? – how would you describe that? 
  • Jim Womack episode on “Machine Revisited”
  • Labor / talent shortages — similar challenge in Europe or Japan now?
  • Was there anything from that research that wasn’t widely understood by readers and business leaders?
  • “It’s a mindset” not tools, techniques, and gimmicks 
  • Parallels to innovation? How much is a mindset?
  • The importance of building trust with suppliers
  • “Innovation is everybody’s job”
  • “The fundamental is trust in people”
  • “… permission to innovate” – culture and environment
  • Is there a spectrum between C.I. and innovation?
  • Can innovation be taught? Can innovation be a process?
  • Innovation as a noun vs. innovating as a verb
  • Why are middle managers so important for innovation and is this surprising to people? Not just the “genius leaders”
  • “Innovation ambassadors” – coaches working with the middle managers
  • If people think that Lean (and concepts like standardized work) stifle innovation, what’s your response to that?
  • “The power of process” doesn’t stifle innovation… leads to innovation?

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in their 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.

This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators network