How to Build a Future-Proof Company,
with Clarisse Gomes


The Innovation Manager at Deloitte Brazil explains
how bringing performance and innovation together
can help you build a future-proof company

As a civil engineer, Clarisse noticed how bureaucratic and inefficient her processes were. She realized that the entire company was living in the middle of pure waste, which made her really uncomfortable. That’s when she felt the need to leave her operational position to work in a more strategic one. Now, as an innovation manager at Deloitte Brazil, she found a way to bring Lean and innovation together in order to build a future-proof company.

Knowing about her unusual, but relatable history, I invited Clarisse Gomes to tell me more about her journey and how she managed to bring performance and innovation together, always keeping the principles of Lean in mind.

Our conversation was really insightful, and that’s why I brought to you her top four lessons in Lean, innovation and technology. Check out the result of this week’s Gemba Talks:

1: Innovation and Lean naturally walk side-by-side

Lean is all about adding value to the customers and as Clarisse always says, “the assumption of innovation is to add value, so theoretically, if it doesn’t add value and if it doesn’t work, it is still not innovation.” A truly innovative company should also be customer-centric, trying to find ways to solve the client’s problems through innovation.

Apart from that, Clarisse bases her argument in Art Smalley’s problem classification: 

  • Troubleshooting (it stands for the problems that need immediate fixing)
  • Gap-from-standard (this is a deeper kind of problem that directly impacts the company’s indicators and results, so they need a root cause analysis)
  • Target-state (it’s the kind of problem that encourages improvements)
  • Open-ended and Innovation (this problem inspires disruptive improvements)

In Clarisse’s eyes, you’ll only be able to solve all these problems when connecting Lean practices to creativity and innovation. In her words, “the companies that are able to innovate already have a solid basis. They’ve built a fertile soil of continuous improvements so the disruptive ideas can flourish as well.” I find it really interesting that she always emphasizes the idea that the capacity of innovating must be in every phase of a process, regardless of whether it’s supposed to be disruptive or not.


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2: Tools to innovate

The beauty of the Lean philosophy is that in its essence, innovation is very welcomed. The belief that every idea is valid and necessary to allow continuous improvement to happen is one of Lean’s key aspects.

That’s one of the reasons Clarisse believes that Lean and innovation tools can definitely work together. She points out that “it’s important to have knowledge of both approaches to identify the right moment in which they can complement each other.”

You can connect Lean Startup tools to PDCA or even Design Thinking to A3, Root Cause Analysis and so on. Using them together is an opportunity to achieve even better results and, as a consequence, add an even richer value to your customer.

3: Innovation has many names and shapes

As said before, innovation is also continuous improvement. It’s one of the aspects that allow the Lean wheel to keep turning and Clarisse explains it in a really simple way: “continuous improvement is a way of innovation, so when we talk about continuously improving what we already do, we’re talking about incremental innovation.” But the thing is that there are different types of innovation, and continuous improvement is just the tip of the iceberg.

Clarisse points out that “when we talk about adjacent innovation, we talk about reaching new markets and new clients, but somehow we’re still in a paradigm. On the other hand, transformational innovations break paradigms instead of just filling in a market gap.”

They are different types of innovation and they can be used in different time of a company. Here, I reinforce the importance of understanding the maturity of your business (pro tip: PMM and VSM are great tools for doing that) and understanding the innovation and Lean tools available in order to achieve the best results possible.

4: Technology does not come first

When we talk about a Lean-driven company, we talk about caring about the customers. That’s the reason why technology shouldn’t come first. Clarisse goes deeper on this matter:

“People always ask me about the next hyped technology and what is about to happen, when they should actually be asking what are people’s needs and how their behavior is going to change. The drive for transformation and rupture must be what people need. Technology is only a supporting tool, not the motivation itself”.

As a tool, technology arises in order to improve innovation. “It’s the capacity knowing that no matter what is about to come, you can adapt to it. This is how you truly build a future-proof company,” Clarisse says.

Therefore, a Lean innovation is the opposite of building a project only because you have the possibility of using a determinate technology. Clarisse states that “innovation must be user-oriented. That’s what will generate value at the end.”

If you’re looking for more insights like Clarisse’s, don’t miss the chance to read the previous Gemba Talks interviews here.

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