Saturday, August 28, 2010


Innovation Wars?

Stop the Innovation Wars is the attention-getting title of this month's Harvard Business Review attempt at controversy by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, both on the faculty at Dartmouth, and co-authors of a new book on innovation, due out in November. (See July-Aug. 2010) What is the Innovation War? It is the battle between corporate operations groups, responsible for ongoing operations and support of existing products and services, and the teams formed for new initiatives, usually given names like innovation team. The authors' description of the powerful, extremely negative reactions to the idea of creating an innovation team with special responsibility for a new strategy and how it gave rise to their research is fascinating, but familiar; readers of Real Innovation and the TRIZ Journal are likely to ask what is the excitement, and what calls for academic research.

The authors rename the operations groups the Performance Engine of the company, and prescribe a partnership modality, in which the Performance Engine partners with dedicated project teams tasked with innovation projects. They present an interesting series of case studies: BMW's regenerative braking team, West's (the legal publishing branch of Thomas Reuters) creation of database products, Lucent's service businesses, and WD-40's new dispenser to demonstrate the universality of their proposed method as applied in a product, a service, and a component part.

Step one of the partnership process is dividing the work between the Performance Engine and the dedicated project team. One insight that I found quite useful was that it is not just the work to be done and the skills of the people that should be assessed, but also the past working relationships of those people. If they have always worked in a hierarchical relationship, they may not be able to work in a flat organization. If they have always worked on projects that have well-defined deliverables, they may not be able to work in an exploratory environment. And, of course, vice versa: one example showed how people who had typically worked very independently, or with a small technical support staff, were not well-suited to working in a large, structured team with complex, interdependent roles. The new organization will also need new metrics of success, new compensation/reward systems, and its own unique culture. Trimble and Govindarajan task management with creating these elements, but I've seen management fail more often than it succeeds as creating a specific culture - - it seems that the best that management can do is be sure that the metrics and reward systems are not contrary to the desired cultural elements.

For a short article, they did a good job at illustrating the kinds of problems that will occur in this partnership. TRIZ readers will recognize the physical contradictions in the situations of loose- tight management, team - individual metrics, and the technical (trade-off) contradictions in the schedule vs. completeness and new technology vs. traditional methods and new suppliers' creativity vs. traditional suppliers' reliability, etc. Disappointingly, the authors did not use any of the insights available from business applications of TRIZ to propose solutions to these contradictions. Their solutions to the problems of innovation are remarkably un-innovative. Equally disappointing, they do not present any data or case studies showing that their proposed method work. Case studies from which the method was derived are interesting, but obviously are available because they were successful for those companies in those circumstances. The test should be to apply the method to new situations and evaluate its effectiveness, and iterated the method based on both failures and successes. I am particularly dubious about the effectiveness of changing the names of the operations and innovation teams as a key success factor!

Readers are invited to contribute their case studies and observations, and particularly any methods they have found effective.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


More Open Innovation

Discovered since the Open Innovation posting:

No change in my conclusions about the role of TRIZ.

Friday, August 20, 2010


TRIZ Communication

I have just (reluctantly) joined Twitter.   Those of you who participate can find me @ellendomb
Why reluctant?   I like the freedom of blogging--any length, any format, with or without pictures, sometimes in this TRIZ for the Real World blog, sometimes posted to the TRIZ Journal and Real Innovation Commentary blogs as well.    So the 140 character limit of Twitter seemed designed to prevent saying useful things!   (Winston Churchill:   I didn't have time to write a 10 minute speech, so I wrote a 3 hour speech.)

But, I was ignoring the Twitter use to tell people about the blog, or about an article, or a book, ...Hey, this is a TRIZ example of using an existing resource, maybe for a different purpose.  So that's a good way to shake up my own complacency and refresh my view of communication in TRIZ.   Short history: of the English language TRIZ communication:

TRIZ e-mail listserver (later replaced by TRIZ at mid-1990s
The TRIZ Journal (started by Jim Kowalick and me in 1996, then edited by Michael Slocum and me 1998-2006, sold to CTQ Media, now edited by Katie Barry with the help of the editorial board of Jack Hipple, Gaetano Cascini, Prakash Kappoth, and me)  Initially monthly magazine format, now combined with "commentary" blogs and Q&A Discussion forum.)
Yahoo Groups and Google Groups, 2001-4
Professional societies:  Some have fixed websites or newsletters with outbound communication only, some have web 2.0 features for member and guest discussions.  The list changes frequently:  Apeiron = Italy, Ametriz = Mexico, Altshuller Institute = USA, ETRIA = Europe, and some need no explanation like TRIZFrance, The India TRIZ Association, Taiwan (both TRIZ and Systematic Innovation Societies), Japan, Korea, China, etc.  2000-present
Social Media:  LinkedIn and Facebook each have dozens of TRIZ-specific groups, plus Ning and Xing and many more that I'm not involved in.
Twitter:  I'm finding many other TRIZ contributors, probably since 2009
.Readers: Please tell us about your experiences, and how to get results that are worth the time from Twitter and all the social media.
TRIZ Project:  Anybody want to do a pattern of evolution study or an evolutionary potential study using the history of TRIZ communications?  Flexibility replacing rigidity, moving control to the supersystem, ...


Thursday, August 19, 2010


Open Innovation and TRIZ

Two times in two weeks on two continents then twice more by e-mail people asked about TRIZ and open innovation. Sounds like a trend? I honestly had not given it much thought, and before my current exposure I would have said that my impression of open innovation was that companies invite outsiders to contribute ideas in order to get more ideas from a population that is more diverse than their employees, and that
if they used TRIZ, they could solve their own problems and not rely on the "mob." I was a bit uncomfortable with this, remembering that when I was new to TRIZ, an expert (he thought he was being kind!) said that it was too bad that I had put so much time and effort into QFD, since now, with TRIZ, you can solve all the problems and predict all the customer needs so you don't need QFD.

Regular readers may remeber that at TRIZ India we heard lot about open innovation from the Yahoo India participants.
One of their unique concepts was conducting 2 "hack" events, inviting their own employees to one and outsiders to another, creating new applications, presenting them to a judging board (talent show style) and being rewarded immediately for high potential ideas. My TRIZ bias started to dissolve: the participants were not solving a problem that the sponsor had defined; rather, they were solving their own problem, and the judges were deciding both whether the problem was general enough (there would be other customers) and the solution was good enough.

When I got back from India, my accumulated LinkedIn messages included a note from a friend in Minneapolis pointing out a meeting in San Diego (which is 150 km from me and 2000 km from her) and yes, the topic was open innovation. Bright Ideas develops software that a lot of companies use to manage open innovation systems, and the Birds of a Feather meetng is a non-commercial users group meeting. My estimate is that a bit more than half the participant were users of the software, a few used other methods, and some, like me, were just there to learn about the topic. Next meetings are in Zurich and in Hong Kong, and I recommend them - - very good speakers, very good experience sharing by participants, very restrained selling by the Bright Ideas people. If you can't get to a meeting, look at the on-line discussions, or do both.

Great big learning that I'm almost embarrassed to admit: There are two different meanings to "open innovation"
1. Inviting employees to contribute ideas outside their own areas of specialty. This can be everything from the old-style company suggestion box to the current style of "campaigns" where ideas are solicited for particular projects for a specific time period.
2. Inviting non-employees to contribute ideas. Popular versions of this are Innocentive, Nine Sigma, Idea Connections, and many others such as the recent attempts by BP and the US Environmental Protection Agency to get public contributions of ideas for solving the problem of the oil well catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. They got more than 80,000 ideas, creating a new problem: how to sort and evaluate the ideas, and they also created frustration - - I got many communiques from TRIZ practioners who had ideas but could not get them noticed by anyone in a position to do anything about them.

Jeffrey Phillips from OVOInnovation and John Russo from CCH Wolpers Kluper gave the morning presentations that were actionable lessons learned. Russo's talk stimulated a lot of discussion of how many people in any group will participate, and the conflicting data on the use of incentives to stimulate participation. Philip Horvath from INOS spoke more to the philosophy of communication and knowledge transfer, and stimulated a lot of discussion.

I'll summarise highlights of Jeffrey's paper because it has application to the whole adventure of finding out how (and IF) TRIZ and open innovation can interact. If you want to get more see
Success depends on alignment of the innovative idea with overall company strategy - - NOT that the idea can't be completely different from past work, but that the death of an idea is most likely to be caused by lack of resources (time, money, talent, attention, ...) and resources are allocated according to strategies and operating plans that support those strategies. We may talk about company culture, but it is an iceberg, with a tiny bit showing above the water, and most of it hiddent below, and in most cases companies only talk about the part that shows. Biggest failure cause for specific idea campaigns is lack of criteria (or clear criteria, well-understood by contributors) and organizers should put a lot of work into creating the criteria before announcing the campaign, to avoid disappointing/frustrating the contributors. Some members of the audience were surprised by one point, and other agreed vigorously: evaluation is a skill, and experience matters, so develop a skilled cadre of evaluators.

Jeffrey and I are both on the program for the Business Innovation Conference in Chicago in October, and I look forward to learning more.

My views on the role of TRIZ in Open Innovation (two somewhat new, one pretty much expected)
New: Formulate better questions or challenges. Ideality gives a different perspecti ve!
New: Don't just select a best idea. Use function and attribute analysis, use feature transfer (or the Pugh method) to hybridize ideas to create better ideas than the best of what was submitted.
Expected: Generate ideas using TRIZ to solve the problems presented in the challenge.

I will be working with people who are now using open innovation in the coming months, and I invite readers to comment, so that I can combine what we are all learning into something we can all use.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?