Acadiana Business

INNOV8 Lafayette Day 5: An Innovation Engineering Experience with Doug Hall

by Leslie Turk

Doug Hall: Innovation Engineering. It piqued my interest when it showed up on the INNOV8 schedule two months ago.

Doug Hall: Innovation Engineering. It piqued my interest when it showed up on the INNOV8 schedule two months ago, as did Hall's resume: chemical engineer turned Master Marketing Inventor for global giant Proctor & Gamble. Left the corporate world to found Eureka! Ranch and partner with the University of Maine to create a new field of study called Innovation Engineering. A list of consulting gigs that reads like a roster of corporate American Idols, including Coca-Cola, the Walt Disney Company and dozens more. Described by Dateline NBC as "an eccentric entrepreneur who just might have what we've all been looking forthe happy secret to success."

OK. I'm in.

Photo by Dylan Fuller

Fast forward to Tuesday morning and standing before me, little more than 5 feet tall, is Doug Hall, barefoot, wearing blue jeans, working a room packed full of business people at The Picard Center. It was a return engagement, jointly presented by The Opportunity Machine and the Manufacturing Partnership Extension of LA. It was also immediately evident why devotees like Bob Miller wanted him back for INNOV8 Lafayette 2013.

Hall's system is rooted firmly in the teachings of American statistician and consultant Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who was brought to Japan after WWII to help rebuild that country's industrial and business base by producing the innovative, high-quality products that eventually became the Japanese brand. Hall's mantra: Successful companies commit to a scientific system that creates a culture of never-ending innovation. "Any company can innovate when it's about to go out of business," he says. "We want to teach you how to operate where innovation is the norm."

Innovation, as Hall defines it, is "meaningful uniqueness" with equal emphasis on both. Noting that customers like suppliers who bring them "new stuff all the time," it must also be meaningful, in which case "customers are willing to pay more for your offering." The key, he says, is in knowing what customers want ahead of time.

Innovative engineering can be risky business, and it's not for the faint of heart. "Fail often and fail cheap," says Hall, noting that the greatest risk comes from doing nothing. "You can lead change or you can be the victim of change," he adds.

And the eight-hour survival lesson commenced.