Tag Archives: how to be innovative

Creative Problem Solving With “TRIZ”

How to Apply Creativity to CI

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.

TRIZ research and practice has been expanded into a rich tool kit for
innovation, but probably the simplest approach is to use the ‘40 Principles.’ A list of these can be found at triz-journal.com/40-inventive-principles-examples.

How Strong Leadership Drives Innovation

leadershipandinnovationAs a final component to our series of posts on the subject of innovation, today’s post focuses on the critically-important role of leadership. Given the challenges of creating a consistently effective innovative organization, nothing is more important than leadership, which is required to empower and unleash an organization’s creative talents and energy.

An innovative culture is not the default position — it must be carefully created. But empowerment, important as that is, is nowhere near enough. Leadership must also create a challenging vision around which to rally the organization’s creative energies. This vision must be grounded in a deep understanding of the market and of the daily struggles of the people who make up that market — i.e., the market’s needs.

In addition, understanding the market is much easier for a small company where everyone deals with real customer needs every day. But as organizations grow, they expand like a balloon — more mass and less surface area. The surface area has the chance to get close to the external customer’s needs, but leadership must maintain or create a mechanism that will ensure that an understanding of the customer’s needs can penetrate beyond the surface area into the heart of the organization.

The same is true of internal functions that work together like a chain of customers. As organizations grow, departments grow and they too develop ‘more mass and less surface area’ — creating the familiar silo phenomenon.

Finally, leadership of innovative organizations must, without stifling creativity, challenge the organization’s efforts with the necessary, market-driven constraints.

Without the right constraints, empowerment cannot succeed. It is too easy to become satisfied with a creative idea before it has been developed into something really workable. An organization that tries to empower innovation without creating the right market-driven constraints, can easily suffocate in an avalanche of incomplete or impractical ideas.

This is a tall order, and it becomes easy to see why innovation isn’t easier to come by despite all the human talent and energy brought to bear. But creating an innovative culture is, in itself, a creative challenge. By increasing our understanding of the challenges and constraints, we increase our ability to focus our own leadership talents on the right things to make it happen.

Read the full article…

Innovation Enablers!

boxSince our previous few posts have focused on barriers to innovation, it only seems right that we might also review some ideas for enabling it…

These methods require strong and empowering leadership to lay out the market constraints, make clear the threats from the changing environment and the opportunities that may arise, and provide the amnesty to take a risk to put ideas and observations on the table.

When, in the 1950’s, Taiichi Ohno led a delegation to visit Ford to learn how to build automobiles, he was dismayed by the inventory, the huge warehouses and sprawling production facilities, the staggeringly large workforces. Toyota had nothing like those resources to emulate that system. They lacked the capital for all that inventory and they lacked the space for those sprawling production facilities. They needed a much leaner system, and so they invented one – because they had to!

Another  company observed that when their very survival was at risk, they began to implement a program of Continuous Improvement that called on everyone to contribute innovative implementable ideas. Because they had to develop new and better ways of operating, they did!

Similarly, a start-up company with few resources must innovate or quickly wither away. And it must be less scary to try something new and risk failure than it is to stay with the status quo. To create this condition, you must provide amnesty to reduce the risk of sharing new ideas; but it also helps if the status quo looks pretty untenable.

Outside the Box Thinking
Outsiders often come up with the best innovations, because they have no ties to the status quo. But outsiders often have a difficult time effecting real change because they are outsiders. A senior manager of a once innovative company wryly observed, “We say we like to bring in outsiders with fresh ideas, but when they share them we explain that’s not the way we do it here.”

To foster process innovation we must summon the courage to acknowledge the deep areas of waste that are part of our standard work. We all have this: inspection or rework or moving or waiting that is so intrinsically a part of the way we work that we cannot envision the work without it.

Because we cannot immediately think of any possible alternatives, we look the other way and thus we cannot innovate.

Summon the courage to put that waste on the table, calling it what it is. We have seen remarkable feats of innovation inspired by this simple act — recognizing waste for what it is. Go ahead and imagine the process without the steps that add no real value — that just compensate for a flaw somewhere in the process — and then take the time to search for ways to get to that vision.

Imagine perfection.

Lots of Ideas Can Be a Surprising Barrier to Innovation & Continuous Improvement!

People readily agree that we cannot innovate with too few ideas. Fortunately there are numerous methods for surfacing “innovative thought,” such as brain-storming, checklists, or the five W’s and 1 H.

But can’t get anywhere with too many ideas either!

toomanychoicesWhen too many ideas are generated by the above-listed methods, the risks of choosing the wrong idea or the complications associated with choosing the best idea can get in the way of deeds, and effective innovation requires both.  To be effectively innovative an organization must have a process for pivoting from idea creation to sifting, sorting, choosing, and doing.

It is no surprise that one of Bill Conway’s favorite sayings has always been, “The most important business decision people make every day, is deciding what to work on.”

Unleashing Innovation & Creativity

A recent inc.com article shares some great insight from Disney about innovation, and about a belief that is aligned with points made in several of our posts: innovation is the product of intentional leadership.

The article notes that innovation requires “a deliberate, intentional, and ongoing focus on the part of leadership to create an organizational culture where creativity can flourish on a daily basis, at every level, and within every function.”

“The way we face these challenges is to ensure that creativity and innovation are not just “the CEO’s thing,” says Jeff James, Vice President and General Manager of Disney Institute. “In our case, Bob Iger has said that our company’s strategic platform is based on three pillars: creativity, globalization, and technology. Since we believe that everyone is inherently creative, the role of the leader is to develop the environment in which that creativity is unleashed.”

Leading Innovation & Continuous Improvement

As most people agree, organizations that continually change, improve and innovate are more likely to successfully meet the challenges of an ever-changing competitive environment. Further, those organizations that can successfully develop a culture of innovation and continuous improvement are more likely to achieve success in less time.

In addition, to both develop and sustain this culture, 
leaders at all levels must understand the principles, concepts, methodology and tools of continuous improvement as well as their roles in providing the necessary support to:

  • Drive improvement efforts
  • Unleash the organization’s creative talent

Leadership’s primary goal is to build individual and collective enthusiasm and understanding that encourages people to question the status-quo, comfortably share new or innovative ideas without fear of reprisal, apply their knowledge to continually study, change, improve and innovate their work.