Our previous post focused on the value of creative thinking in Continuous Improvement. One interesting example of how we might apply creativity when solving problem is called the Theory of Inventive Problem-Solving (TRIZ).
The concept dates back to the 1950’s and Russian innovator G.S. Altshuller’s belief that innovation processes could be improved by studying patterns in problems and solutions. Altlshuller and his team analyzed millions of patents to identify patterns, and they deduced from this data a small number of principles that can be applied to make the creative process more predictably effective. The result, TRIZ, is an acronym for Russian words that translate as “the theory of inventive problem solving.”
The fundamental premise is that there is nothing new so, whatever your challenge, if you understand it both in its specific and general form and you do the research, you will find that someone somewhere has already solved it. Then if you focus your creativity on adapting the general solution to your particular challenge, you will achieve your breakthrough faster and more predictably.
TRIZ accelerates breakthroughs by guiding the human intellect along paths most likely to be fruitful. And speed of innovation is essential because most people and groups abandon a “stretch” goal fairly quickly and settle for a compromise; and “slow innovation = no innovation.”
The developers and practitioners of TRIZ observe that problems often emerge from contradictions, and that most solutions aim at compromising with the contradictions instead of overcoming them. Here are some of the contradictions that may appear in the workplace:
It takes time to do something the right way, but the thing must be done quickly
A task requires precision, but it must be done without precise tools
A product must have dozens of features, but it must be simple to use.
Each problem is a specific example of a general contradiction. TRIZ research has paired every general contradiction with a small number of general solutions. So a practitioner of TRIZ can focus their effort and intellect on translating the specific problem into one of several dozen general problems. The next step is to look up in the TRIZ resources the general solutions that have been applied to that general problem in the past. Then one focuses one’s creativity on identifying and testing specific solutions that could apply the general solution to the problem at hand.
Over the years we have recognized that creativity can be a desirable trait for a good Continuous Improvement (CI) Leader as well as for project team members.
Consider that a creative mind can be a great asset when trying to identify the difference between the status-quo and the way “things could or should be if everything were right,” which is a clear definition of waste.
Although not often associated with leadership, establishing a creative culture of continuous improvement can help managers in their efforts to achieve higher levels of team performance. Specific steps for doing so include encouraging new ideas, orchestrating “no bad ideas” brainstorming sessions, tolerating failure and using it as a learning experience, and recognizing the achievement of those involved in applying creativity to improvement initiatives.
In addition, creative thinking can be a tool for helping people accept and adapt to change.
But it is important to realize that many people fear that they are not creative or believe that they lack the ability to think in a creative fashion, which tends to prevent them from putting forth an earnest effort.
Can You Become Creative? Fortunately, according to data shared by Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, and others indicates that only “10% of creativity is genetic,” and that there are a range of activities that can help people develop a creative way of thinking. These include:
Consume content that’s outside your comfort zone
Maintain a positive outlook (often “fuels” creativity)
Participate in brainstorming activities
Test new ideas
Recognize that very little in this world is original, and that creative solutions more often come from improving what’s current
Apply strategic constraints to your ideas– this is a component of “Imagineering,” which involves first setting the “sky as the limit” when we imagine what “could or should be if everything were right,” and then engineer it back to earth for practical application
In a recent post we shared perspective on “creativity” being among the traits of a good CI Leader, and how creativity is often the driving force behind innovation and change.
In that post we also shared five “creativity killers,” which CI leaders should avoid.
In contrast, a recent article posted on Inc.com focused on ways to enhance our creativity. “Often ten minutes is all you need to kick start your brain and wildly increase the likelihood of a breakthrough,” states author Jessica Stillman, a freelance writer based in Cyprus with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work.
Stillman also shared the following list of creativity boosters: