The Engine Assembly Line Versus The Concept Car


The Assembly Line Versus The Concept Car Maybe it’s bec […]

The Assembly Line Versus The Concept Car

Maybe it’s because I was Creative Director with Volvo for 8 years. Maybe it’s because I went to high school in Oshawa, Ontario (Canada’s version of Flint, Michigan). But when I want to frame up innovation, I often think of what the car folks do. With that in mind, there are two critical parts to your business and career.

  1. The engine assembly line

Let’s face it, whatever product or service you deliver has a series of activities done in succession that generate a “thing” at the end of a literal or metaphorical assembly line.

The assembly line is where your profit comes from because you’ve stripped out every single ounce of inefficiency. Each employees’ role on the assembly line is very clearly defined and their actions are meant to be repeatable. When they’re executed the same way every single time, quality is maintained, costs are contained, and the margin is consistent.

As any spot welder knows, there’s no collaboration on the assembly line. No one stops the line to blue sky concepts and brainstorm alternative methods of delivery. Everyone does their job, they pass it off to the next person, and the line continues with peak efficiency. In my business we say, “Kill it and bill it.” Put your head down. Get it done. And move on to the next task.

The first step of innovation is putting what you currently do on the assembly line. Make low value activities low effort activities so that you can save time, money, and energy for new innovations that will truly make a difference.

  1. The Concept Car

No car manufacturer can just focus on the assembly line, either. Every once in a while, you need to lift your head up and look at the world around you. When automotive manufacturers want to explore new ideas to topple their own established ways of thinking, they create a concept car.

The concept car is built off the assembly line. There’s no hope or expectation that the concept car will ever go into production. Auto manufacturers just do it to do it and to see what they can learn. Sometimes, through that innovation journey, they’ll discover that one unique component or process of the concept car can be easily integrated into the assembly line. Over time, with enough concept car-inspired components, the assembly line innovates responsibly because of the experimental components that feed it.

The assembly line is where you make your money.

The concept car is where you spend your money.

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