Hand writing "What if?"

Innovation Starts with “What if?”

Aug. 3, 2021
Nowhere is this better exemplified than with our 2021 IDEA! Awards finalists.

You’d think product innovation begins with an idea. After watching product managers and design teams work for the last 20 years, I can tell you that the first step in the process usually begins with two simple words:

“What if?”

The process of continuous improvement is as the name implies. It is an unending quest for better. You push your teams to look at their specific job for small ways to improve and then you bundle those improvements into a systematic approach to excellence. And when that process is complete, you do it all again.

Throughout all of that effort, the first question is: ”What if?” What if we had a better way to measure the temperature, vibration and lubrication level of a motor? What if that motor was smaller without losing power so we could save space and energy? What if there were new hoses and valves that would reduce our compressed air spending and improved air delivery to our pneumatic system?

Product managers love to answer “What if?” It is what drives their quest for improvement. Product managers can’t get asked “What if?” enough, and that question leads us to the products in the 2021 IDEA! Awards program.

From category entries in Fluid Power to Motors, and from Automation to Motion Control, the 2021 finalists showcase the answers to “What if?” They are the response to their own customer’s needs in the last year. They listened, began to evaluate the possible answers to “What If?” and started to hone in on the solution.

As you begin the process this month to evaluate and vote on the finalists for the 2021 IDEA! Awards, these great new products and others like them in the industry, see how many of these product innovations answer your own questions of “What If?” The voting begins now online at machinedesign.com as part of the IDEA! Awards finalists.

The product manager is at the front line of the continuous improvement process, and the IDEA! Awards are a celebration of that work. When we announce the winners Nov. 10 in Cleveland at the IDEA! Conference, we’ll get the chance to thank these product managers and product development teams for their solutions, but also for the curiosity to keep asking “What if?”

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