Monday, July 21, 2014


ICSI 2014 5th International Conference on Systematic Innovation, San Jose, CA USA

The 5th International Conference on Systematic Innovation and the 4th Global Innovation Competition were held July  16-18, 2014, at the San Jose State University in San Jose (Silicon Valley)  California, USA.   This was a collaborative effort under the leadership of the Society for Systematic Innovation and the University:  

International visitors had a tour of the San Francisco-San Jose area on Tuesday, then the program began with the tutorial for beginners (presented by me, with help from Akhilesh Gulati and Tim Brewer) on Wednesday morning.   The program began  Wednesday afternoon with welcomes from the sponsoring organizations. 

Daniel Sheu welcomed us and gave a short  history of the conference, and plan for future—2015 in Hong Kong, and 2016 in Lisbon, so start thinking about papers and projects now!    This conference has people from   17 countries with  65 papers and 7 countries  with 25 projects.   He presented his model of TRIZ  as a subset of systematic innovation, and systematic innovation as the essential system for future development.  

“The Process of Innovation as a defining competitive advantage” was the keynote speech presented by Curtis Carlson, CEO of SRI International.     SRI and Carlson personally have extensive innovation history generating world-changing concepts AND spinning out companies to develop and commercialize the concepts—everything from HD TV to robotic surgery to Siri.    He spoke dramatically of the unlimited opportunities offered by the current emerging technologies in biology/medicine and knowledge and information sciences, and the frustrating contradiction of large parts of the population that cannot participate in the opportunities because of lack of education.     Carlson offered perspective based on SRI’s work with government agencies and businesses of all sizes – he sees frequent repetition of the patterns of failure because of lack of a process for innovation, starting with understanding the customer and encompassing management/leadership skills and value creation methods.   He emphasized that fast, deep learning requires doing, real-time feedback, multiple representations, teams, tutors, and appropriate incentives, and gave great examples of how they use these ideas to generate successful concepts in education and government and business.   Innovators are rare people who can change the world!

“New Business-oriented applications in Advanced TRIZ” was the second keynote, presented by Simon Litwin, based on his experiences with businesses that need to go beyond classical TRIZ to solve their business challenges.    

  • The first “tool” is a technology roadmap that is multidimensional, showing options for improvement strategies (increase market share, increase profit margin, …) and incorporating both the voice of the customer and the “voice of the product” to discover latent main value parameters. Technology scouting uses TRIZ-based function-based search to understand the state of the art, why that can’t meet the needs, and what enabling technologies would solve those problems.   
  • Technology mining is more oriented to acquisition of the technology company, rather than the transfer of the technology itself as in the scouting phase. 
  • Adjacent markets identification also depends on the MPV analysis and uses a reverse form of the function-oriented search to find industries that need the technology and could benefit from adopting it, making it possible to license a technology to many different applications.    Simon showed a successful case of the modification of an impedance measurement originally used for measuring moisture in cable insulation to do non-penetrating glucose measurement for diabetics.  
  • The last tool is the development of products for emerging markets, where customers’ needs may be very different from in established markets (large chewing gum size demonstrates prosperity!)

Simon’s concluding remarks called for the creation of Smart R&D Labs to overcome the internal resistance to breakthrough products that kill the vast majority of good ideas at various times in their development.   His final example of a banana peeling machine charmed the audience, since it was fully implemented, not just a concept.  


Parallel sessions started after a short break.  As frequent readers of these reports know, I don’t try to be comprehensive—I only report on the papers that I hear.   Since I was the chair of session A-1, readers won’t hear about sessions A-2 and A-3, but are encouraged to read the papers when they are published.


Su-Chen Huang presented “The Challenge and Countermeasure of Apple App Store” including comparison with the Google store and others, using Porter’s strategic model as an overall framework. 


Tai-Chang Hsia presented “By Systematic Innovation Techniques to Enhance the Quality of Rice Milling.”  He started with a process review, risk analysis of each process step, and identification of the factors that were the most probable factors for poor milling.   Function modeling of proposed improvements of the process was used to identify contradictions and find preventive methods for anticipated problems.   QFD was used to prioritize areas to be improved.  Specific improvement strategies came from the 40 principles.    The company is now installing the recommended solutions—conclusions should be available next year.


“TRIZ based Systematic approach of Problem Solving for treatment process of screw manufacturing” by Tsai Jo Peng and Shih-Chuan Cheng included a case study with unique (for this conference) use of Analytic Hierarchy Process to understand the relative importance of requirements, finding that non-polluting regulatory requirements are high-priorities.   The AHP weightings were used in a Pugh-type decision matrix.   We look forward to hearing about the implementation results!

I moved to session A-2 for “Computer Aided Innovation from the perspective of the Main Bibliometric Laws” presented by Marco de Carvalho, faculty advisor to the researcher, L.H.R. de Oliveira.   Bibliometry is used to map the developments in an area of knowledge to identify the main achievements and the gaps and opportunities in the field. 
Dave Conley's paper "TRIZ for Computing" emphasized that many people try to apply TRIZ to writing code, but that the TRIZ analysis of the system elements is much higher payoff--the code is just one subsystem element.   Most software is part of a control system for a larger entity, and understanding the whole thing is essential for improvement.   His example of an automatic braking system was appreciated by everyone who has ever driven a car!

Day 2 of the ICSI meeting at San Jose State University kicked off with Professor Jay Lee from the University of Cincinnati and the National Science Foundation presenting “Recent Advances and Trends of Industrial Big Data and Smart Analytics for Product and Service Innovation” based in part on his work with the 80+ companies in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) on Intelligent Maintenance Systems.   He gave us a unique view of innovation in the logistics and maintenance world, which has created the field of predictive maintenance, which may have a lot of application in the world of human “maintenance” (medical technology.)


The rest of the morning was devoted to Ed Sickafus’ special presentation on his Unified Structured Inventive Thinking method.  USIT is based on structured analysis of the problem situation before problem solving, and the TRIZ/SI audience appreciated how Ed had incorporated much new research on cognition and brain function into the process of idea creation.   “Adjust the heuristics of problem solving to reduce logic” and to rely more on   the unconscious mind is a real challenge to this audience!


The afternoon started with two parallel sessions.   Igor Polkovnikov’s paper “Abstract Flow and its presence in Problems” was a unique contribution to the conference.   He showed how to consider the flow of anything (not just liquids and gases or electric current) and the analogies to pressure, work, etc., in the formulation of a problem.   


Manqiao (Mandy) Liu presented “Team Organizational Mode for Systematic Innovation and Improvement of Existing Products” based on her work at the University of Virginia working with the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group. Key findings: 

1.    An innovation expert (either internal or external) can view the problem from all directions, while the subject matter technology experts work from their own points of view.  

2.   Innovation methods training may not be appreciated by people who aren’t applying it immediately. 

3.  Communication is difficult at all times for multiple specialties, so a trained communication coordinator is important.   Roles and responsibilities in the team are very well defined.  

She showed a great video of innovation in tunnel structure that resulted in extensive development of intellectual property and immediate applications that restored environmental damage in farmland.     


Herb Rhee reported “A New Paradigm for Private Development Assistance (PDA):  Case study of university student volunteer work” based on a research collaboration of E3empower in California and Ajou University in Korea.   PDA differs from ODA (official development assistance) by the emphasis on empowerment, rather than emphasis on funding.    Both models in the past have had limited sustainability. In the new paradigm, students have TRIZ training and other entrepreneurship training, then do projects in impoverished areas.   Solar lantern distribution in Nepal was one of 5 projects, all of which demonstrate organizational/business model innovation to make a sustainable model for improvement which will continue after the students go home.


Tim Brewer presented our co-authored paper “Using the System Operator and Complete Technical System TRIZ Tools to Understand the Development of Crowdsourced and Crowdfunded Business Models.”   The audience was very interested in the examples from Quirky and Kickstarter, and the predictions about the continued evolution of the entrepreneurial business model.


The last session had research papers in 3 rooms and the projects for the Global Innovation Competition in a 4th room, making it even harder to decide what to see.    Daniel Sheu’s project “Identification of Solution Models by Function-Attribute Characteristics using Mathematical Measures” stimulated considerable discussion of how trends are identified and how the innovativeness of solutions are measured.  This technique has great promise for quickly generating ranked order solution candidates. 


Youngmou Liu from Purdue University presented “Definition of System Innovation Degree and its Measuring Method.”  They found that Altshuller’s 5 levels of innovation do not discriminate well between innovations that are in the same category.   They propose a measure of innovation degree based on IPC (international patent classification) that improves the definition of a product.   The authors propose that these definitions will be useful in decision making for pathways of continuing improvement.  


Daniel Sheu presented “Supersystem Product Trimming Using Affinity and Dendrogram” which demonstrates a novel approach, trimming in the supersystem rather than in the system level.    The use of the affinity diagram to establish functions (and attributes) that are related is a unique approach, and the dendrogram provides a mathematical way to decide the candidates for improvement.


The banquet was a very nice opportunity for the delegates to socialize, and to see some of the many photos taken by the conference staff.   


Day 3 opened with parallel sessions.    I heard the paper “Integrated Systematic Problem Analysis and Solving Technique” presented by Hsin Rau, which had some unique suggestions for structure, and good examples using function analysis and contradictions and the Pugh matrix for finding best candidate solutions, then doing “super-effect” analysis to find any potential problems caused by the solution and eliminate them.  A practical example from electronics processing illustrated the system.


Paul Filmore generated considerable discussion with “Discontinuous Improvement:   Continuing to Improve when Continuous Improvement Stalls.”   His analysis is quite persuasive, but the discussion focused on how to get the right people in the right companies to listen!


Maria Lambrou of the University of the Aegean reported on “Systematic Innovation Capabilities in Shipping:  Validation of an established Innovation Process Model” (and a 3-country collaboration of Greece, Japan, and Australia.)  The shipping industry has some unique management/leadership structures that she showed are strongly correlated with innovation attitudes.   This is work in progress and we look forward to future developments.


Langdon Morris had the challenge of presenting the closing keynote.  We were an experimental audience for his talk about Agile Innovation—the theme being that linear, stepwise innovation processes are not fast enough or smart enough for the business needs of the fast-moving world we are in. 


The main portion of the conference concluded with an award session, recognizing the work of the organizers, and honoring the winners of the project competition, and honoring excellent papers.   The conference website will have the list soon—I wasn’t fast enough to capture all the names!


The post-conference tutorial by Simon Litwin was very well attended.  Simon explained and demonstrated  “Advanced TRIZ Tools: Parallel Evolutionary Lines” which was very well received by the audience, particularly TRIZ practioners who have found the patterns of evolution to be useful but difficult to select and apply.   Simon’s examples and his willingness to answer questions were very much appreciated.


Remember:   2015 in Hong Kong and 2016 in Lisbon:   start planning now to participate!








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