Figure 1. PDCA Quality Cycle
In 1939 mathematician Walter Shewhart published
Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality
Control, in which he introduced the PDCA quality
cycle. Edward Deming worked with Shewhart at
Bell Laboratories and later popularized the quality
cycle, especially in Japan.
Check if the desired result
was achieved, what,
if anything, went wrong,
and what was learned.
are explained by
Reading the Map
The map is built on the idea that
innovation is about the evolution
In contrast to innovation pro-
cesses, quality processes typically
work within existing paradigms.
Quality is largely about improv-
ing efficiency, whereas innova-
tion is largely about improving
effectiveness. Improving quality
is decreasing defects. Defects can
be measured, progress monitored,
Business Week design editor
Bruce Nussbaum asserts, “You
can’t Six Sigma your way to high-
impact innovation[ 5].” Although
some Six-Sigma advocates dis-
agree, Nussbaum points out a
fundamental difference between
managing quality and managing
innovation. Innovation is not get-
ting better at playing the same
game; it’s changing the rules and
changing the game. Innovation is
not working harder; it’s working
Chris Conley, head of the
product design program at IIT’s
Institute of Design, suggests
a slightly different frame. He
contrasts innovation with operations. He observes, “Most businesses organize for operation,
not innovation[ 6].” Organizations
by their nature are conservative:
They maintain a way of doing
This model of innovation takes
the form of a concept map. “A
concept map is a schematic
device for representing a set of
concept meanings embedded in
a framework of propositions[ 4].”
In a concept map, nodes and
links form a web of meaning, a
semantic mesh. Nodes are nouns.
Links are verbs. A noun-verb-
noun sequence forms a proposi-
tion, a sentence. Concept maps
are similar to entity-relationship
diagrams and entailment meshes,
though less constrained and less
This concept map uses text
direction and arrows to indicate
reading direction. Type size indi-
cates importance and hierarchy.
Colored backgrounds join related
Creating concept maps involves
trade-offs. Adding terms provides
detail and may clarify intent, but
more terms mean more links,
increasing the reader’s effort.
Concept maps differ from tra-
ditional texts by making links
Figure 2. Model-Story Cycle
Explaining a model involves telling a story, navigat-
ing a path through the model. Similarly, telling a
story builds a model of actors and their relation-
ships in the mind of the listener.
business, a way of living, a way
of using language. They conserve
Vertical axis: The innovation
cycle. The map situates innova-
tion between two conventions.
An innovation replaces an earlier
convention and, in time, becomes
a new convention. It is a cycle—a
process in which insight inspires
change and creates value.
We rarely recognize innova-
tion while it’s happening. Instead,
innovation is often a label applied
after the fact, when the results
are clear and the new convention
has been established.
The process begins when exter-
nal pressure or internal decay
disturbs the relation between
a community and its context
or environment, a relationship
[ 2] Schumpeter, J.
and Democracy. New
York: Harper & Brothers,
[ 3] Ashby, W. R.
An Introduction to
Chapman & Hall, Ltd.,
[ 4] Novak, J. D., and D.
B. Gowan Learning How
to Learn. New York and
University Press, 1984.
[ 5] Nussbaum, B.
Week, 8 March 2005.
[ 6] Conley, C. “Building
a Creative Culture,”
Denver, Colo.: AIGA
Image Space Object
January + February 2008