Book Review: The Elegant Solution

The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation by Matthew E. May
  rating: 5 of 5 stars View all my reviews.

My review

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.  This quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery is included in “The Elegant Solution” and perfectly sums up the premise.


I would hate to classify this as just a lean book because I think it can have value for non-lean organizations since innovation is needed everywhere.  For the people who have practiced Lean, this book is of value because it taps into something important – CREATIVITY.


I enjoyed the constant theme for innovation through the balance between science and art.


I appreciate the structure of the book for chapters starting out with Problem, Cause, and Solution and then ending with Hansei (reflection).  Modeling Toyota thinking within the pages is impactful.


A major learning I have from the book is identifying problems two ways: 1) What is broken (and keeping you up at night)? and 2) What is blocking perfection?  Matthew E. May delves into the thought process behind these two approaches and the second type of problem is a way I never considered before. 


The book discusses many obstacles to creating innovation.  It is easy to just say “change is hard” but the book calls out specific biases and challenges.  Knowing specifically what makes change difficult allows you to create counter-measures.


The chapter about intangible value added service/products is a fresh way to look at your organization’s deliverables. 


I have never seen stretch goals defined as well as the book and really learned a lot about Dynamic Tension.  Gaining a deep understanding of the problem by going to the site where the work is done AND verifying through data is explained in actionable detail.


I highly recommend this book to anybody.  For organizations beginning their Lean Journey, this should be one of the first books to read before you dive into the technical details of tools because it will inspire you to keep your heart in innovation.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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