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MFG Advocate: Transform Your Company to a Dynamic Player of the Future

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George Blankenship, former executive at Tesla Motors, Apple Computer and Gap, sat down with the MFG Advocate’s Penny Brown to discuss what he’s learned about innovation, disruptive thinking, and the power of making things.

BIankenship describes the role of disruptive thinking on innovation as the process of coming up with the idea. The disruptive thinker asks the question: What’s going on today and what can be done to make it better? Companies that do it well are the companies that can answer that question and are willing to take the idea the extra mile.

This is how innovation happens – taking that disruptive thinking and ideation and making it into something. It’s all about stepping back from the norm; identifying what can be done uniquely in a big way and why that’s important; and then finding a pathway to get there.

What types of companies are the best at taking the status quo, throwing it away, and looking to the future to make it much better? Blankenship says it’s often the small companies that are the innovators because they can more easily create a niche and then allow great minds to figure how that niche can fundamentally change the way things are going. Tesla is small when compared to the size of the auto industry. Apple was a failing company when Steve Jobs stepped in to make it something great. Even the very small start-up Nest a tiny company with one product – a thermostat – was bought by Google for over $3 billion.

While scaling up has its advantages, a big buy-out should not always be the ultimate goal for small forward-thinking companies. Big companies are often more risk-averse and beholden to shareholders, so innovation can be stifled. Smaller companies have the luxury of standing by their convictions and marching to their own drummer.

So how can exposure to manufacturing at an early age spur disruptive thinking and innovation? As Blankenship sees it, when you start with a manufacturing foundation, you have the basis for seeing the big picture. It’s up to you where you take that vision from there.

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