211. Innovation Lessons from Rudolf Diesel’s Suicide

Poor Rudolf’s Story

In 1913, the inventor of the diesel engine jumped into the sea from a ferry crossing the North Sea. He left behind huge debts and the frustrations of trying to convince engine buyers to upgrade.

Because True-New innovations are always resisted, what first innovations should you pursue at your firm?

Try Service- Metrics Improvements for Best Customers

Distributor employees intuitively know that: “the customers pay our wages”. Who then could resist improving service value for – the Top-Five, most, net-profitable customers – that pay most of the wages? So:

  1. Get customer profitability analytics to determine the best customers in the most net-profitable segments.
  2. Then, visit 5+ of the best in one target niche at a time.
  3. Ask: Can you think of times when we caused you pain? Within their stories, find new “service metrics” like: “Oh, you want…
  4. Zero errors with 100%, on-time delivery: guaranteed!
  5. You (and others like you) want us to round out our one-stop-shop array of SKUs.
  6. Then, invest to have the highest, next-day available fill-rates.
  7. Provide half-day, response time for quotes on drop-ship needs
  8. Same or next day cures on any service miscues.

Besides common service metrics and targeted, tuned fill-rates, each customer niche is apt to want other peculiar, service metrics. Consider fulfillment response-times:

  1. One contractor niche wants to order as late as 6 PM (now 24/7 via the web) for next morning delivery.
  2. A niche of industrial buyers wants delivery when they specify (typically 2 or more days out).
  3. Another contractor niche that does “will call” wants: to order 15 minutes in advance of the pick up; and be in-and-out within 5 minutes.

Don’t provide standard, minimal service metrics to all types and sizes of customers!

Employees’ Objections to Inventing The Capabilities that Enable the New Metrics?

“We can’t meet these new metrics, because (many reasons)”. And, (unspoken): “Why should I change; What’s In It for Me?” (WIIM)

Now the innovation journey begins. Every pushback is actually a sub-innovation challenge. A cluster of sub-inventions enables each service-excellence metric. The clusters are barriers for copy-cat competitors.

And, change “WIIM” to: What’s In It for WE (WIIW)! Show and sell how all 4 stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders – will win. How specifically? Get my “Roadmap” at: http://merrifieldact2.com/core-renewal-roadmap/.


Re-invent the basics within your four walls, before trying to change an entire ecosystem as Rudolf did.

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