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104 The PCB Magazine • March 2014 by Gray Mcquarrie grayrocK & associates Do We Need to be More Innovative? c o l u m n chaNge your dam thiNkiNg Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change. —Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly Do we want, or even need, more innovation in the U.S. PCB industry? Many times when I try to bring up the topic of innovation I hear, "Do not talk to me about new ideas, models, new technology, or a creatively inspired work force; I need more sales. This is my reality." There is a Latin saying, "castigat ridendo mores," which means, "one corrects customs by laughing at them." Should we laugh at those who practice the custom of not innovat- ing while at the same time demanding higher sales? I know of four board shops in the U.S. or Can- ada that don't have a sales problem. Yes, they do worry about their sales, of course, but they worry about it within the context of how to change and innovate in order to sustain and grow their sales. When I bring this up to other shops, the discussion is quickly shot down. The common response, "They have a niche business. We aren't inter- ested in niche." When used in this way, niche suggests an el- ement of blind luck and irrelevance to the sales problem at hand. For example, Apple's Macin- tosh computer, still to this day, isn't considered a business computer. It's a computer that serves a specialized creative niche. In fact, this atti- tude is so pervasive that friends ask me when I am going to get rid of my Mac and buy a real computer! When Apple was brought back from the brink, their marketing campaign featured a large picture of Albert Einstein, with the cap- tion, "Think Different." When I think of Albert Einstein I find myself remembering his defi- nition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Innovation—doing things differently and get- ting different results—was the tool Steve Jobs used to turn Apple around. Too many of Apple's competitors refused to change and still refuse to change today. The number one fear in the investment community concerning Apple is whether they lost their ability to innovate since losing Steve Jobs. With- out Steve, there has yet to be a new ground- breaking innovative product released by them that has opened up a new (and for some, niche) market. Our industry was once full of innovation. There was Shipley, PCK Technology, Rogers, Oak Industries, just to name a few of the most in- novative companies of our past. I remember when Continental Circuits jumped into surface mount technology and their sales grew several- fold, seemingly overnight. Yes, at the start this was a niche business, but it defined what would become our mainstream business. I remember the microscopically small Cray-3 PCB produc- tion line in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where an entire plating line could fit on a desk. This, of course, proved impractical for the long haul, but I would submit there are lessons we could all learn from this effort if we so chose. Some in- novations worked, such as Shipley's 4000 bath, which produced fantastically reliable plated

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