Standardization Doesn’t Stamp Out Creativity | The Deming Institute Blog | John Hunter

“[…] One of the things I find annoying, in this way, is that reducing variation and using standardization is said to mean everyone has to be the same and creativity is stamped out. This is not what Dr. Deming said at all. And the claim makes no sense when you look at how much emphasis he put on joy in work and the importance of using everyone’s creativity. Yet I hear it over and over, decade after decade.”

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Michel Baudin‘s comments:

Yes, the metric system did not stifle anybody’s creativity. By making commerce, engineering, and science easier, it actually helped creative people innovate, invent, and discover.

But when Deming says “Standardization does not mean that we all wear the same color and weave of cloth, eat standard sandwiches, or live in standard rooms with standard furnishings,” he seems to exclude the possibility that standardization could be abused.

Rather than presenting standardization as a universal good, I think we should restrict its scope to domains where it is useful. Weights and measures is an obvious one, and there are even cases where making people “wear the same color and weave of cloth” makes sense, for example, if crews on airliners didn’t wear uniforms, passengers couldn’t tell them apart from other passengers.

On the other hand, the Hollywood formula for romantic comedies is a standard we don’t need. We don’t need the obligatory chase at the end when one of the heroes has to find a way to prevent the other one leaving forever.

Even in manufacturing, standards are not always helpful. You don’t need a standard for the size of end-balls on motorcycle brake handles. In the 1980s, international committees hammered out comprehensive 7-layered standards on the way computers should communicate, that were set aside by the Internet. (See What are standards for?)

The lack of an obviously useful standard also sometimes has unexpected consequences. In Japan, for example, half the country gets 50Hz power and the other half 60Hz, as a result of which, its electronics industry developed products you can plug into power sources from 97 to 240V and 50 to 60Hz.

So, let’s use standards where they help, but let’s not become standardization zealots!





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