How is Quality Related to Innovation?

The ISO 8402 standard (now defunct, and a precursor of ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 9001:2015) defines quality as “the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.” Even though this definition is old, it helps us understand how quality is related to innovation. Here’s the connection:

This definition is static, fixed in time, and considers only those characteristics that meet stated and implied needs now. It addresses the needs of the customers (e.g. inclusion of certain features) and stakeholders (e.g. financial, schedule and resource constraints). It addresses specified needs that are embodied in requirements, specifications documents, and standards (including those captured by quality management systems), while acknowledging that an equally important body of needs might be unstated or implied.

This definition suggests that needs identification extends well beyond simply capturing and responding to the audible “voice of the customer”.

“Totality” suggests that quality is more than just characteristics; it’s also the design, implementation, and interaction of those characteristics with the individual. This implies a much richer context for the practice of quality problem solving. Because utility is the ability to satisfy needs, this definition can be abbreviated as “the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear on its utility.”

This definition easily accommodates innovation when time is added: innovation becomes the totality of characteristics needed to satisfy future needs. This supports the ASQ Innovation and Value Creation group’s description of innovation as quality for tomorrow.

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