Monday, February 11, 2013

The Risk – Quality – Innovation Dynamic

The Risk – Quality – Innovation Dynamic

Paul writes this month in response to an ASQ survey of teens  interested in pursuing studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) which indicated that “nearly half of students are afraid or uncomfortable about failing”; an interesting and maybe even concerning finding.  To put this into some context, some survey detail was provided.  Survey participation was by email invitation to American youth for a week, just after New Years 2013.  The teen response group with the afore mentioned concern about failure was comprised of some 500 kids between the ages of 12 to 17 years.

Count me as suspicious. 

My first concern is that most 12 year olds would be in or around grade 6, most have either not started, or just started going through puberty.  Many would still call them children.  Seventeen year olds, on the other hand, are either high school juniors or seniors some (but certainly not all!) of whom are well on with developing a perspective of a world beyond themselves.  It is hard to believe that those two groups would have anything in common, especially any notion or sense of academic failure.  Second, in my experience, many (most?) teens despite angst about acne and popularity and Facebook still see themselves as pretty much invincible. 

So while I haven’t had the opportunity to look at the study design thoroughly, let me just say that I would be uncomfortable making very many generalizable comments from a small population sample size.  Said another way, recognizing the ISO definition of risk as the effect of uncertainty or lack of information on an activity or outcome, accepting the study’s headline as truth would be pretty risky business. 

Having said all there is another question asked and that is about how well or unwell Quality folks deal with failure in their own situation. 

Over the last while I have been writing on this theme from different directions (see: [ Invention and Innovation and “new knowledge” ] and [Even committedQualitologists can make mistakes ].

It strikes me that the Qualitologists fit into a special place in enterprises; on the one side we can create the conditions to reduce failure that results from the problems associated with insufficient information and excessive error.  And on the other side we can help optimise the conditions that allow for innovation to flourish.  Use of Quality tools and expertise can help determine what our customers want and need and what will work for them (think Satisfaction).  Also by promoting a culture that embraces Quality and PDSA and Continual Improvement can help promote the processes that lead to opportunity (think Improvement through Innovation).

All this got me thinking about Paul’s January A View from the Q “How Do You Define Quality?”. 

So let me provide another definition for Quality: 

Quality is the field of knowledge and action that provides the dynamic interface to reduce the hazards of Risk and optimize the opportunities for Innovation.

Does that fit with your job description?


  1. Saw your ASQ risk comments.

    My name is Greg Hutchins. I'm the editor of CERM Risk Insights. Pls see below. We got your name from ASQ's Influential Voices Blogroll.

    CERM Risk Insights has a circulation of 20,000 readers. The publication is the leading global publication that is pointing to the evolution of quality to risk management.

    We're looking for writers to discuss the current state of quality and how companies can facilitate and lead the change to risk management in their organizations. This is tremendously important as we see more organizations eliminating or rebranding their quality departments to risk management.

    We'd like to hear your thoughts on a possible piece for CERM Risk Insights. Best,

    Greg Hutchins PE CERM
    Future of Quality: Risk™
    503.233.1012 or 800.COMPETE

  2. Greg
    Thanks for your comment. I have visited your site, and CERM(R)Risk Insights. In my world I do not see a lot of hospitals or healthcare settings or laboratories eliminating the Quality programs yet.
    I have seen some "rebranding" at the university level where the University Biosafety Program was aligned within the University Risk Management program, and that does make sense to me.

    I would argue that the view from a Quality perspective and the view from Risk are complementary, and not competitive. Indeed ISO has a document that links the two very effectively. [ISO/TS 22367:2008 - Medical laboratories -- Reduction of error through risk management and continual improvement ] Maybe you have had the opportunity to read it.
    ISO is now in the process of updating the document.

    So are we in some philosophical conflict, or is this a function of terms and definitions?



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