Ten Rules for Six Sigma Innovation

Hisham Sabry

Six Sigma is sometimes criticized as the enemy of innovation. But Hisham Sabry, a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, says it doesn’t need to be like that and has 10 rules to make sure that innovation is alive and well in LSS initiatives.
Innovation is as old as the mankind. Ever since someone thought of inventing the wheel and cooking their meals, innovation has played an essential role in our day to day activities.

If you are a Lean Six Sigma professional, you will be regularly faced with problems that require more than just the traditional ideas and approaches. Can any one be innovative or is it something some people have in their genes?

Actually through my long years of experience I can confidently say that anyone can be innovative. Innovation and creative thinking are mainly needed during the Improvement phase of Lean Six Sigma projects. In this phase, you have pointed out the root causes of the problem and you need to come up with solutions for them. Here are ten simple rules that can be used by all the Lean Six Sigma professionals in order to come up with innovative solutions to business problems:
  1. "Somewhere, someone else had the same problem and has come up with a solution for it.". Do not waste your time in reinventing the wheel. The probability that the problem you are trying to solve was solved in another organization is more than 99%. Search for similar projects on line and ask other professionals, this will minimize the time you need to come up with a solution on your own. Even if you can’t find a ready made solution, you will have something to customize to fit what you have.

  2. "What is applicable in a different industry can work for me as well". This is 99% true. If you are in the financial services industry you can still get the best practice out from manufacturing. Hospitals and clinics, for instance, have implemented a queuing system similar to the one used in the Banks. Learn best practices and adapt ideas from other industries.

  3. "Always keep asking... there is no such thing as a stupid question". Always challenge the status quo. Do not take anything for granted, always seek out the reason why things are being done as they are.

  4. "There is always a way out, never excuse or deny the phenomena". There is always a solution for the problem, even if you may think that this is the most difficult problem. You must always believe that there is a solution and that you will find it.

  5. "Look at the problem from another angle". You may be unable to find a solution because you are looking at the problem from the wrong or too narrow an angle. Start approaching things from different angles and you will be surprised how things look different from a different angles.

  6. "Information is the most powerful weapon". This is 100% true in all aspects of life. This rule is not only for intelligence agencies and war generals. If you have enough of the right information, then you are going to get your solution.

  7. "Innovation is a team based process". The wisdom of ten people is better than one person. Two heads are always better than one so learn to listen to others especially to those who have their hands closest to the process.

  8. "The most innovative solutions are the simplest ones". They say that that NASA had spent several millions of dollars to invent a pen with special ink to be able to write in the space where there is no gravity. The Russians used a pencil!!

  9. "The fastest way between two points is not always the straight line". Although the straight line is the shortest path, it is not always the fastest. You can drive to work on a longer high way because it is less crowded and you are able to go faster. Do not be afraid of looking for alternatives.

  10. "Innovation is like working out". If you have gone through several brainstorming sessions and have came up with many innovative ideas, your mind will be able to find creative solutions faster each time. Try to keep innovating all the time, not just in the project you are working on, but in your day to day activities. So keep exercising, whoops, I mean keep innovating, and you’ll find the ideas get easier and easier.


Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt