Thursday, October 13, 2011


Traveling TRIZ: Business Innovation Conference 2011

Day 1: Tutorials—Quite well-attended by people from the universities, government, and private industry. Nice new trend in the TRIZ tutorial—people who had heard about TRIZ before, and want to apply it in their work. I heard good things about other tutorials as well, but this is a personal report on the parts of the conference that I experienced. For the full program go to They usually post the presentations a week or so after the conference.

Day 2:

Keynote: Adam Hecktman, Microsoft Innovation Center. A dynamic speaker, great story-teller. Used a fantasy movie (how computing becomes invisible and seamless so you can work on anything anyplace any scale, with partners working in any language…) His focus was on how we will be able to use these tools to enhance our innovation—many in the audience wanted to hear about how the tools themselves were developed, but that is a story for another day.

Tracks: Dan Reid, AIAG (automotive industry action group) “Quality: The next big thing is innovation.” Nice review of a lot of the statistical history of both quality improvement and innovation, especially in the US based automotive companies. Lots of good discussion with the participants, particularly about changing cultures. A surprising point for me was the assertion that innovation needs to be a corporate key competency and must have a structured methodology (that wasn’t the surprise) and therefore should be “owned” by the Quality function. Certainly the quality profession has been very interested in TRIZ and structured innovation methods, but in many companies, the political structures of improvement and innovation are antithetical. This discussion will continue, I’m sure.

Keynote: Ann P. Kalayil, “GSA Case Studies in Innovation.” GSA has been recognized as the most innovative US federal agency, leading now in migration to cloud computing, “green” buildings, government e-commerce, and workplace child care (GSA is the manager of the US government’s real estate, and many aspects of the physical infrastructure for other agencies.) Examples: Cloud/Google apps, weekend conversion, employees “natural” non-training—that is, training was offered, but most employees just started using the new system, without training. BIM (building info mgt, detailed simulation, construction without change orders/correction. GSA didn’t invent BIM, but it is now the biggest user.) Outreach to public. Personal: federal court artwork—virtual museum to make the art accessible to the public. But who will know? Start as partnership with teachers and local museums. Design with a public engagement “component” in the design, don’t just do it because it is a good idea. Audience questions: everything from security concerns with clouds storage to use of wind energy to how to get old-style government regulations changed to encourage innovation (a light technology company can’t show 5 years of financial stability because it has only existed for 3 years, and it is too big for all the special rules for small businesses.)

Tracks:  Peter Lin, Co-founder of Sorin Holdings, presented “Sustainable Competitive Advantage through Focused Innovation.” The audience was invited to challenge every word, and we did, with various points of view about “sustainable,” “competitive” and “focused.” Peter had a strong view on competition—if a resource is available to a competitor as well as to you (such as an out-sourced design firm) then there is no advantage. This argues strongly for protecting core competencies of the company, such as strategy development, product/service design, and customer knowledge. He created an algorithm for evaluating innovative proposals that generated quite a bit of audience interest (some liked it, some challenged it, some hated it—this is success for a speaker!)

Maria Thompson from Motorola has been a friend for many years—I think we met at an Invention Machine Co. user group meeting in 1998, so don’t expect a typical report. Maria had a very cooperative audience, very interested in knowing what’s been going on at Motorola. Maria has a unique perspective, since for many of those years she was based in the intellectual property/patent office. Motorola’s “Directed Innovation” started with TRIZ and software, and has morphed through the addition of psychologically based innovation tools (with particular thanks to the “Whack pack” and several of Gerald Haman’s tools) and most recently the “challenge” approach of open innovation systems. Current experiments aren’t on the innovation tools, they are on the ways to manage the innovation session, for maximum use of the results.

Maria’s quote of the day: “Tenacity and perseverance are the most important elements, not the idea generation.”

One unique idea was to get the critical/negative thinking people to be part of the planning team, use their questions to shape a workshop, but put the creative thinkers in the session. The idea that not everyone has to be part of the workshop to buy in to the results was surprising to many in the audience.

TRIZ showed up as a significant influence (through ideality, 40 principles, 76 standards, etc.) in the Problemstorming phase of the process, which creates the Question Bank that gets the system started. One very practical hint: ask “how could people do XYZ?” instead of “How can we do XYZ?” The “people” version is seen as much less threatening.

The final Keynote speaker for day 1 was Margarita Quihuis from Stanford. Her topic was nominally “Financing Innovations in The Valley” but she spoke about a gigantic range of topics about changing the nature of how people interact with each other and with the surrounding society—everything from the way that the Syrian protesters did test marketing of revolutionary moves (put out Facebook invitations, change the protest if not enough people RSVP) to mass/micro funding of new ventures to how to get people to send tweets during a seminar. (yes, I sent 3) After all, financing is one form of interaction, right? Instead of summarizing, I’ll tell you that she was a TED speaker and recommend hearing/seeing her: See her! There is lots of real research on the new ways that technology enables human interaction, and Margarita is networked into much of it.

Congratulations to Praveen Gupta and Arvind Srivastava, President and VP of Accelper, for the array of speakers, the hospitality, and the organization of 2011’s Business Innovation Conference. I’m a big fan of this event—not the same speakers you’ll hear at other events, and not the same audience you’ll meet at other events. Plan now for 2012—I’d love to see you there.

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