Monday, August 15, 2016

Systematic Innovation: The Top 4 of 40 Inventive Principles to Solve Problems

40 Inventive Principles Source

Last week at our annual administrative retreat, we learned about Systematic Innovation and the 40 Inventive Principles. Our speaker was Darrell Mann, a former engineer who is now a professor, speaker, and founder of Systemic Innovation, Inc., working with companies around the world helping them innovate. 

Mann explained that back in the 1940s during the Cold War, the Russians analyzed patents from the United States in an effort to determine whether there was a pattern to invention. The program was called TRIZ, which translates to the "theory of the resolution of invention-related tasks"  as detailed in Wikipedia.  TRIZ researchers discovered that problem solving and innovation does actually fit a pattern and the thinking involved to create the innovation fits into one of forty possible patterns. 

Some of the forty principles are used more frequently than others, and Mann explained that four of the methods solve 80% of the problems. So starting with a focus on these techniques can help us get to a solution sooner. The top four Inventive Principles are:

#2 Take Out

#5 Merge

#13 Other Way Round

#25 Self Service

Mann's company has a software program that allows you to select the attributes of the problem for which you are solving and the program identifies the top principles that will most likely solve your problem. He bases this on a database of past solutions that have yielded millions of data points. 

Yes, but...

Breaking down walls to get to the solution Source
In addition to teaching us about the Inventive Principles, one other helpful exercise we did was to identify an "Ideal Statement" and then make an extensive list of all the reasons it couldn't happen; the "Yes, but..." reasons. We then cross referenced the relationships between each of these "Yes, but..." perceptions and mapped them out visually, making a concept map/flow chart. This allowed us quickly see the most important problem that each "Yes, but..." statement connected to as well as identify cycles/loops and collector issues. Mann explained that successful innovation identifies walls/barriers and breaks them down rather than working around them. 

According to Mann, 98% of all innovations fail. By identifying the biggest problems and tackling them head on using one or more of the Inventive Principles, our likelihood for success increases. "Run towards problems and you will find the real issue to be solved." Great advice for business, education, and life!

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