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Serendipity, the art of discontinuous improvement and staying alive Wasn't that new just yesterday?

Summary: Changing technologies, globalization, and increasing innovation mean that organizations must foster an environment that will support discontinuous improvements rather than depending on traditional views of progress. Innovations must have a transformative impact as opposed to developing or continuously improving existing systems. This article provides examples of organizations engaged in discontinuous improvement. One element in the discontinuous movement is quantum fluxing, which involves changes in the whole resulting from fluxes in any quantum in the network. Nanotechnology, the knowledge used to craft individual molecules from atoms, is an example of quantum fluxing. To support discontinuous improvement, new tools can be added to existing total quality management (TQM), continuous improvement, and problem solving approaches. One possible addition is serendipity, which can be characterized as unexpected or unintended and beneficial discoveries. Four myths limiting employee acceptance of serendipity are explained. Principles and example strategies for supporting serendipity are also suggested, including ending parental management styles, ensuring that employees have responsibility and authority, and committing to a mindscape that allows for uncertainty and chaos.

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  • Topics: Innovation, Continuous Improvement
  • Keywords: Quality improvement (QI), Discontinuous improvement, Quantum fluxing, Leadership, Novelty assessing, Apple Computers, Federal Express, 3M, CNN, Chaos Theory, Nanotechnology, Innovation, Management strategies, Space design
  • Author: Holder, Robert J.; McKinney, Richard N.
  • Journal: Journal for Quality and Participation