22 March 2011

Learning Innovation from Confucius - Part 4 Method M1 Observe & Discern

Continuing from Learning Innovation from Confucius - Part 3 The Attitudes,

We now come to the meat of innovation - the thinking method of innovation.

I will group them into 2 main categories -
  1. the personal innovation skill and 
  2. the group innovation skill.

For the personal skill, we have the following 6 steps:
  1.   Observe & Discern - Environmental Scan
  2.   Identifying a Contradiction
  3.   Bipolar thinking
  4.   Multi-uses
  5.   Invent & Share
  6.   Implement Your New Ideas
The first step, observe and discern is very important and I will dedicate this post to talk about it. A key reason for many business failures is wrong assumption. The reality is very different from the assumptions of the business plan. Good entrepreneurs are not risk takers, they are risk minimizers. They conduct experiment first to find out the whether their assumptions are valid. This is what Confucius tell us to do - observe and discern first.

M1   Observe & Discern - Environmental Scan

The skill of observation does not come naturally. We need to be trained in it. We need to practice it. Confucius offer the following advices:
  1. Open & Fair Mindedness 正心
    Observation starts with an opened and focused mind. We covered this in depth in the 'Book of Great Learning' Learning Innovation from Confucius - Part 2 Ideality.
  2. Know yourself
    Confucius said in 2:17b
    知之为知之, 不知为不知,是知也。
    Knowing what you know and knowing what you don't know is knowing too. -or-
    Wisdom is knowing what you know and what you don't know.
    Most people think that we know and are embarass to admit what we don't know. We are actually very unaware of what we don't know because of the thinking biases and illusions that we have. See this List of cognitive biases.   None of us are fully free from the list. We just need to be aware of them. There is why systematic innovative thinking skill like TRIZ and BVITS have operators to help us go against the those erroneous thinking tendencies.  We have to constantly aware of our biases that trapped us and stopping us to explore the unknown.

    Innovation is about exploring the unknown and making know the unknown. It is to discover the patterns and connections that were there all the time but we fail to see them. In a way, we have to agree with Solomon that there is nothing new under the sky. The new thing is actually old thing that we there all the time. We are trapped in a box that we don't see and hence we can't think out of the box. There is no point to tell us to think out of box that we don't see. We need to use BVITS operators that help us to break free from the box.

    Knowing the unknown is the basic step for innovation.
     
  3. Discover New from Old - See it in Context and over Time too.
    We have cover this in part 1 and above. The key is always to relate to the context or environment that one is in. The context could be physical distance and super or subsystem, and could also be time - the progress of history, the trends. Our answers can usually be found in the elements of our context.
  4. Go wide first then depth.
    7:28 子曰:「盖有不知而作之者,我无是也。 多闻,择其善者而从之; 多见而识之;知之次也。」
    "There are people who do things out of ignorance. That is not me. We must hear much and pick and follow those that are good. We must observe more and remember them first. Then will study them in greater depth to know more.

    (many translators of this verse treat the last phase, knowing as second rated knowledge or wisdom. I beg to differ. The 2nd is not in ranking but in time sequence. We observe first to know rather that to make wild assumption out of no where. My interpretation tally well with 1st part of the verse criticizing those people who do things out of wild imagination)

    There are 4 things to learn here. Firstly is going wide first. Hear much and hear wide. Secondly is to gain first hand knowledge if possible. Go and see. Thirdly is to discern the good and bad. Fourthly is to study and gain greater depth of knowledge. We need to hear, see, discern and study. Don't pick one. Do all. Especially Go and See for yourself.

    Modern innovation encourages us to build prototype early and get the users involved to test it and give feedback. IDEO, the top rated innovation company encourages their clients to go and see first.
  5. Nine Thinking Objectives - Multi-Channel Input & Processing
    16:10  君子有九思:  Wise gentleman have nine considerations:
      视思明,see with clarity
      听思聪,hear with discernment (no mis-communication)
      色思温,facial expression with gentleness
      貌思恭,behave with respectfulness
      言思忠,speak truthfully (with trustworthiness, give corrections if needed)
      事思敬,work with commitment, quality and excellence
      疑思问,ask when there is any doubt
      忿思难,energized to think about the difficult and complex
      见得思义。when seeing gains consider whether it is right.

    In innovation, we engage our full faculties (the Smell is missing but it added the brain, body and heart (will and conscience)) to observe, think, communicate and work
Hope you can go out with an open mind to observe, discern, study and discover new ideas and knowledge. You can also conduct experiments, build prototypes to observe, learn and discover as well. If you run out of ideas, you need to go out to get them!

Next: Learning Innovation from Confucius Part 5 – Method M2 Solve Contradiction

Lim Liat copyrighted March 2011
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