Snap-On Tools & World-Class Innovation

As a person who has spent his entire life in computer and medical technologies, it may surprise you that my first Innovation SuperstarTM is a tool company. But my interest in Snap-On Tools began when I was only six years old. My father was a commercial refrigeration mechanic, and he had a toolbox, like most mechanics do. But in his toolbox was a top drawer, and in that top drawer was a beautiful felt liner, and that drawer was the drawer he used to keep his Snap-On tools.

They were expensive, so he didn’t have very many of them, but his tools were clearly his most cherished possession. So how could my father be so highly connected to something as mundane as a hand tool? Well, if you remember in Chapter 5 of The Innovation Playbook, I talk a lot about the anatomical features of Innovation SuperstarTM.

One of the catch-all cultural criteria for a superstar is what I called craftsmanship. Snap-On Tools are beautifully made. They are comfortable in your hand, and their quality, look and feel is absolutely exquisite. But there is more to it than that. Their customer connectivity has allowed them to create innovations that are simply world class. How do they do it?

There’s another dynamic in play here, again part of culture, that I call collective passion. They’re tool guys who love tools, who are creating tools for other people who love tools. It’s what they live; it’s what they breathe – they get excited about it. They have the collective passion I find in every Innovation SuperstarTM. From their Vice President of Innovation to their VP of Worldwide Sales I could hear that excitement in their voices; I could feel the passion they had for this amazing line of products. Collective passion isn’t something you can create through a new innovation management system. You have to have a team that gets it. You have to have a team that really loves the customer and has the passion to create world-class innovations that blow their customer away.

Another important component of Snap-On’s success is the company’s ability to keep its eyes on the proverbial prize – in this case, on customer value. They know that you can’t focus on risk management in an environment surrounded by product failure fear and still do things that are amazing. What’s incredible about Snap-On Tools to me is that they produce over 200 new inventions every single year! The overwhelming majority of these new products succeed in the marketplace. That’s incredible – the ability to create a system, essentially an invention assembly line that allows them to develop technologies that “nail it” 90 percent of the time is pretty incredible.

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