Thursday, October 07, 2010


TRIZCON and National Innovation Conference, more, better afternoon day 1

Wayne Fisher's premise (based on 20 years of observation at Procter & Gamble) is "Innovation is a Team Sport." P&G's growth strategy is "touching and improving more consumers' lives in more parts of the world, more completely." and innovation is DOING it.

His keys to innovation are people, process, and place; and he shared some of his experiences developing the space for teamwork in a product development center.

He now works in "the GYM" which is a physical space and a group of facilitators, designed to help other people within the company to enhance innovation (more than 400 workshops a year!) Wayne showed us a phenomenal array of projects--ranging from reducing the cost and improving the lifetime of existing products to finding new product applications for technology discoveries.

Wayne's case study comparing training/deployment/company benefit of Design of Experiments to TRIZ (the study was done for an IMC user group meeting in 1998, that I actually remember!) Discussion throughout the room focussed on the sphere of influence (DoE success because researchers do experiments anyhow, so changing that is easy, TRIZ generated ideas that were outside the influence of the people generating the ideas.) The entire conference audience joined in exploring this; Ralph Czerepinski's suggestion that DoE gives instant gratification and TRIZ creates ideas that require lots of work got big applause!

Concluding remarks:

-Teams out-perform individuals, always

-Know your individual style and use tools to overcome gaps

-Processes don't stifle creative people; they create the "space" for them to succeed.

Emily Riley of the Wright Brothers Institute introduced David Shahady of the Air Force Research Labs. He said that AFRL is a very large "company" that is looking for innovation that is sustained over long periods of time, in supportof the Air Force mission of fly, fight, and win in air, space, and cyberspace. AFRL has 40 locations world-wide with a variety of time-scales, ranging from 30+ years to this week and this month.

Shahady tries to overcome the "buzz word" innovation problem by limiting the use to putting new ideas into practice - - he made good use of the story of Swan vs. Edison in the history of the lightbulb.

AFRL intentionally fosters innovation through understanding motivation, toolboxes, social/technical networking, benchmarking commercial m.ethods and adapting them to military needs (and venture capital methods, too--how's that for innovative?)

Shahady's focus in this presentation is the AFRL's design challenge competition, which has unambiguous results, since the participants compete in a battlefield envionment to find out which solution to the problem is best. The commercial participants seemed to envy this evaluation method! Competion between university groups, service academies, and Air Force commands follow the same format.

Competitive spirit is important, but using problems that are significant and complex ("wicked" in complexity-talk) is very important. Counter-intuitively, he said that unreasonable time limits and friction in the team are important, too. More expected was the importance of realistic environments for the tests, and the benefits of finding people to recruit for future work. After 5 years, they have increased the expectations for the challenges from developing ideas in the education system to generating ideas that can go directly into development (yes, and refinement) for real field application.  Personally, as a taxpayer, I have great appreciation for both his creativity and his enthusiasm. 

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