Saturday, December 23, 2006


TRIZ for the Real World

TRIZ for the Real World

Title: Entrepreneur of the year

End of year contradiction: there’s lots of good information in all the “best of the year” issues of magazines. But there’s less and less time to read it and extract useful lessons. BUT this is not going to be a TRIZ lesson on contradictions—just a quick view of a really great article.

Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year is Ken Hendricks, who started his career as a roofer and is now #107 on the richest people list, at $2.6 billion. One of the things he is most proud of is that creating businesses means creating jobs and creating opportunities—at a recent managers’ meeting, more than half of the 600 managers had started with the company as warehouse workers, truck drivers, or—yes!—roofers.

Does entrepreneur = innovator? In this case, YES. His business mantra is simple:
Create Jobs
Eliminate Waste
Preserve Value

An example of all 3: one company was paying for disposal of broken pallets. Now, there is another company in the group that recycles pallets.

Another example: Hendricks operates world-wide, but the home office (and his home) is in Beloit, WI USA. A large company that made papermaking machines closed, putting 1500 people directly out of work, and approximately 3500 in the businesses that serviced those people. The buildings, over a million square feet, went unused. Hendricks bought the buildings, started or helped start a dozen businesses, and developed over 1400 jobs. And changed the look of the town, with giant murals on the factory.

The reporter makes asked Hendricks when NOT to buy a business, and he rejected the question:
Wrong location? Move it
Wrong people? Make changes
Wrong industry? “I don’t believe it...machine tools … coal ….It’s how you look at something and how it’s managed that make the difference.”

I recommend the article—
It is worth your time no matter what your interest in innovation.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, peaceful and creative 2007!

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Real Cultural Change

One concern of the “innovation community” is the need for massive cultural change to convert old-style, business-as-usual organizations to aggressive, change-hungry, experimental innovation organizations. And the history of cultural change is not good—various studies of corporate change initiatives have failure rates ranging from 50 to 95%--and the bigger the change, the higher the failure rate.

So it was a great pleasure on Dec. 15 to hear the UTC (United Technologies) story from Dr. Ralph Wood, who has been a member of the change team for more than ten years. The discussion was hosted by Dr. Bill Bellows, as one of the “Ongoing Discussions” of the In2:InThinking Network. See -- I recommend signing up for the newsletter, and for the discussions. To quote from their home page:

The aim of the In2:InThinking Network is to promote study and awareness of individual and collective thinking about sub-systems, psychology, variation, knowledge, and their interactions - elements recognized as the basis of Dr. W. Edwards Deming's “System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK).

The concept of “inThinking” derives from “thinking about thinking”, where thinking is defined as “a way of reasoning.” InThinking invites an individual to learn to perceive the patterns of interdependencies surrounding him or her and to reason and judge with this insight.

Ralph focused on UTC’s conversion from a conventional business in trouble with both the SEC and the EPA, to a performance culture, where the visible artifacts of the company (results, operational systems, policies, processes, measurement systems, behaviors, …) are aligned with the purpose and guiding principles of the organization. It has been a long journey, and there have been a lot of lessons learned along the way.

The good news for the rest of us is that the journey is still going on. Many changes have been made, and many are still being made. The usual success story statistics are all there—stock price is up, defect rate is down, employee satisfaction is up, employee retention is up, customer satisfaction is up. I can draw one TRIZ lesson from Ralph’s story: The basic TRIZ principle that “Somebody, someplace, has already solved your problem” is very visible at UTC. Ralph told several stories of how they took Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and converted them into seven behaviors for a highly effective company.

Thanks to Ralph and Bill for all the work to organize the discussion. My suggestion to our readers is to see the Ongoing Discussion section of for the Ralph’s notes, and for future programs. Special treat: Russell Ackoff will be the January speaker.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Innovation Evaluation--TRIZ and Journalism

The end of the year always brings special issues of magazines featuring the year’s best inventions (Time Magazine, Nov. 13), the innovators of the year (35 innovators under age 35, Technology Review, October 2006), etc. Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Computer Shopper, and other have special December issues that will be out in a few days. Sometimes the criteria are explicit, but more often they are not, and the readers are left to figure out for themselves why the specific list was chosen.

One question to explore in this column is why are we interested in someone else’s judgment of the innovators or the innovations of the year.

Readers are invited to contribute their thoughts—why are these lists so popular?

TRIZ has 2 ways of ranking inventions:
1. Ideality. The higher the score, the higher the level of innovation.
Ideality = Σ Benefits/( Σ Cost + Σ Harm)
2. The 5 levels of innovation, which gives the highest score to the innovation that is technologically most distant from the original method of doing the desired function.

Evaluation of ideality is usually done when there are multiple possible methods of improving a system. If the goal is maximum innovation, then the system with the highest level of ideality will be selected. But, if there are other goals (low cost, producible with current methods, etc.) those criteria are used, and the ideality ranking is used to develop a future improvement plan.

Evaluation of the 5 levels of innovation is usually done as part of technology forecasting evaluation, either using conventional TRIZ patterns of evolution, or the evolutionary potential method. In either case, the next improvement in a system is determined by comparing the levels of innovation of the key elements of the present system, to see what the opportunities are.

Do you have a favorite list? What makes it good? If you can answer that question, you’ll know what the judging criteria were. I like the Time list because it combines commercial success with technological advancement as a criterion. YouTube was rated #1, since it went from new to $1.65 Billion in less than 2 years, and created a new communication system that was far beyond what the inventors had in mind—it is a great example of the users finding new ways to use the product, and involving their networks of friends and colleagues in the system. But many of the next 20 were TRIZ-like technology improvements, with reduction of harm as well as addition of benefits, even though many of them are at the demonstration stage, not the commercialization stage. I use these as test items for teaching TRIZ, so it helps that they are entertaining as well as useful.

Tutorials on these topics :

Ideality: and

Patterns of Evolution:

Evolutionary Potential:

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