DETROIT - The automotive world loves to crown its successes. Chip McClure thinks it should reward some failures, too. ``Companies learn from failure,'' said McClure, general manager of North American and South American Operations for Johnson Controls Inc.'s Automo-tive Systems Group in Plymouth, Mich.
And employees will be more likely to innovate if they aren't afraid of making mistakes.
McClure told the Automotive World Congress in early January that innovation is the key factor that will separate the industry's winners and losers in the coming years.
Quality set companies apart in the 1970s, he said. In the 1980s, it was cost and delivery. In the first half of this decade, technology made the difference.
In the past, McClure said, innovation tended to come as a giant leap. Now it's more of an everyday process. Innovation, he said, has been key to Johnson Controls' explosive growth as a seat supplier in the last decade.
McClure cited some examples of ``thinking outside the box'' at Johnson Controls:
Semimonthly, the firm briefs employees on business trends.
A consumer research department has interviewed more than 4,000 car owners, and guides product development.
Under a new process, Johnson Controls is making seat cushions from the material used in plastic pop bottles.
McClure cited Schwinn, IBM and Smith-Corona as firms that were content with the status quo and were blindsided by change. Other firms might avoid that fate by rethinking some old axioms, he said. One suggestion: ``If it ain't broke, break it.''