Thursday, October 07, 2010


Peripatetic Learning: TRIZ and Innovation

What a week for learning!   The Business Innovation Conference near Chicago has become a "must do" item on my annual calendar, and TRIZCON, which had become somewhat un-thrilling in recent years, has been revived by joining with the National Innovation Conference for multiple perspectives.   See or commentary sections for reports by me and Jorge Oliviers Teixera on the Business Innovation Conference.    I'm going to experiment at TRIZCON/NIC with semi-live blogging - - let me know if you're reading along.
Congratulations to the board of the Altshuller Institute for accepting the initiative of Zennovate and the Wright Brothers Institute to co-produce TRIZCON with the National Innovation Conference. While I am a
regular participant in TRIZCON, both for learning new things about TRIZ and for seeing many friends, it
was an equal delight to meet many new people (estimate: 40 TRIZ and 80 non-TRIZ attendees) who had
no previous exposure to TRIZ, and to learn about their non-TRIZ innovation endeavors.

Mansour Ashtiani, President of the Altshuller Institute, briefly welcomed everyone and gave a short
overview of the activities in the world-wide TRIZ community. Jeffrey Davis, MD, Director of Space Life
Sciences at NASA presented the first plenary session, surprising those of us who did not know how
extensive NASA's use of open innovation has become - - everything from keeping food packaging fresh in
space to an algorithm for predicting solar flares. More than 1300 people/teams in 65 countries worked
on recent challenges. (See my Commentary from July for other thoughts on open innovation, and how TRIZ can improve the systems now being used.) He had considerable guidance for the audience about how to decide which projects should be done conventionally (grants to universities or industry, or NASA's own laboratories) and which will benefit from world community participation, and lessons learned about how to formulate the challenge problems. No surprise to the TRIZ community how many of their "lessons" involve using functional definitions to improve the problem statements! Findings about where the responses come from are useful to know where to target outreach activities for other forms of research (material science for food packaging in Russia, algorithms in France, etc., as examples) A new challenge for an algorithm reorganize the medical kit for spacecraft is getting lots of response. Davis had some very interesting speculation that I'll look forward to hearing more about:

1. "Breaking" the competitive model and creating a collaborative model, or possibly creating collaborations among the winning ideas in the competitive phase,

2. Unexpected intangible benefits in the joy that the public expressed at working on real space exploration problems.

The conference was organized with 3 parallel tracks, and I will report on the sessions that I was in. See the full program at and click "TRIZCON 2010" Jack Hipple did the beginner TRIZ tutorial for the rest of the day, bringing examples from many fields of application. The advanced track was shared by Isak Bukhman, presenting ARIZ, Zinovy Royzen demonstrating "Conflict Solving Using TOP - TRIZ" and Sergei Ikovenko with his fascinating approach to "Competitive Patent Circumvention."

I spent most of my time in the non-TRIZ track (National Innovation Conference). Steve Goubeaux got the
audience very involved in "Exploring the Future of New Product Development." based on his experience
with multiple industries (everything from bicycles to juvenile furniture to lawn and garden products, to
Cre8ive Dayton which is an "experience" not a building...) and marketing/branding for everything from airlines to toys to the country of Colombia. "What is easy; how is hard" is a key point. Steve had examples and challenges f,or the audience on the need to design for the senses and emotions of the user as well as the logic of the user. Design generation 2 at the same time as generation 1 (and more than half the time launch "2" and forget "1")  Mansour Ashtiani pointed out that this is the pattern of increasing ideality, and Steve agreed to learn more about TRIZ.   (to be continued)

Currently sitting at National Innovation Conference in Dayton Ohio at the Hope Hotel.

Getting energized by the creative energy, the openness to learning, and the courage of people.

What sticks out in my mind is a question for the 'problem space' of innovation: If you don't go where you don't want to go, how will you know what you don't know?

This was something I used with my students years ago (back in the day as a high school science teacher in the southwest of Ohio) who were resistant to learning something new that by appearance seemed to have nothing to do with their life, and nothing to do with their future.

What happened through consistent presence was 'trust' that if we collectively go together, something awesome could happen to them:
For example: Ms. Riley what does an atom have to do with me?
we found that the way an atom lives and how it lives in balance and dances with other atoms to make molecules was instructive to us in our lives and our life's challenges. Not to mention that the obvious was learned---I am atoms that are compressible to the head of a pin, and together in unison with energy makes me a human 'being.' Talk about a gee-whiz moment!

Where is it that you feel resistance within? What or who do you feel resistant to? What is it that you don't want to learn?

Steve Goubeaux from Goodwill and Easter Seals asked us this morning: Do you know how to think BIG, and try small? Do you try stupid things and turn something into stupendous? Can you accept being challenged?
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