14 December 2007

Innovation and Discipline

Innovation is commonly misunderstood as creativity. And creativity is widely misunderstood as being free, crazy and wild. So, for many people, innovation and discipline are conflicting concepts.

The fact is innovation and discipline are closely related. Innovation is about realization or implementation of new ideas that result in business value to people. For business, innovations must result in profits for the company. Realization of an ideas, innovation, is a very disciplined process.

Even for the ideas generation phase of an innovation process, in Innovation by Chance or by Design, I have presented methods for systematically generating ideas.

Someone uses the 'T' shape to describe innovation or design. You need to be broad when generating ideas or looking for solutions, but need to switch to disciplined and focused execution in the implementation and commercialization.

Without the discipline, great music would just remain in the domain of random noises.

28 November 2007

A or B or Both

In western decision making, we are trained to come out with a list of options, say A, B, C .... and then to pick the best one based on some criteria.

In Eastern thinking, in the case of two extreme options, say, A & B, we have the co-existence of both A & B as the concept of Yin-Yang. The answer is not A or B, but the balance of A & B. We want to the have the optimum balance of A & B and depending on the situations, we may want to have more of A, less of B and in other situations, more of B and less of A. We have the ability to keep the 2 options alive and be able to wisely apply them to the issues that arises.

Having A & B together does not mean a compromise position. To me, compromise is always a bad outcome. Consider the dispute and settlement of 2 parties to a compromise. Each one felt he has given away 50% and are not truly happy.

Having an apparent conflict of factors A or B is a contradiction in TRIZ thinking method and there are ways to break the contradiction so as to have the best of both factors A & B. That is the breakthrough thinking that we need.

For more details see Yin-Yang Thinking Framework - Innovative and Critical. 

Read about BVITS and TRIZ to see how to have the best of both worlds.

06 October 2007

Factor1 Ops Factor2

A way to help understand relationship between 2 factors is to relate them with an operator of 'Or', 'And', 'Is, 'For', 'With', 'Then' and then replace the two factors and consider again.

As example, consider the situation of improving Corporate Performance.
We have two key stakeholders (or factors) : Employees and Customers.

Let consider the following combinations with the above operators:
  • 1. Employees Or Customers
  • 2. Employees And Customers
  • 3. Employees Is/As Customers
  • 4. Employees For Customers
  • 5. Employees With Customers
  • 6. Employees Then Customers
Transposing the Factors, we get the additional new ones:
  • 7. Customers For Employees
  • 8. Customers Then Employees
1. Employees Or Customers
Which factor should be give priority to? Customers or Employees? Do we really have to choose one over the other. Could we have a situation of treating Customers above Employees and resulting in low morale for Employees ? Or could be treat employees so well that Customers interests are neglected? Could we have not have both as the below case.

2. Employees And Customers
Happy Employees make Happy Customers .

3. Employees As Customers
The internal employee of other division or department of the company that we serve is our internal Customers. We should serve them as we would serve external customers. It is important that we serve them well that so that they can serve the external customers better.

4. Employees For Customers
All employees should have attitudes that customers come 1st. Employees exist to serve Customers.

5. Employees With Customers
When it comes to decision makings, Employees should take the stand with Customers and seeing the needs and values from the Customers' view point.

6. Employees Then Customers
We, management, must serve our Employees 1st so that they in turn can serve the Customers.

7. Customers For Employees
Satisfied and Delighted Customers would like to support the Employees that serve them. They write commendation letters to the company to praise them. Customers are not just demanding without end. They also appreciate good services.

8. Customers Then Employees
What issues should we put Customers 1st before our Employees? e.g. Opening Hours - Employees work at a time that the Customers want to come to shop.

Now, we can try it for other things. Consider Relationship vs Performance, Faith vs Work etc.
I hope it helps you get clarify and better understanding.

Another frequently used thinking method is 2x2 Matrix. All Consultants are proficient with it. We will cover them in the next post.

05 February 2007

Innovation by Chance or by Design

In reviewing through the various creative thinking and innovative thinking methods, I think we can broadly classify them into two main categories "By Chance" or "by Design".

The blockages to our creative thinking mind are typically our acquired experience which traps us into fixation, prejudices, presumptions, biased and blind-spots. Most believe that by relaxing our mind and allowing our mind to wonder and wander around we could get new ideas. The key is then to produce the relaxing and stress free atmosphere. Hence, the typical brain storming or strategy planning sessions are conducted outside the office at holiday resorts. Letting the mind wonder freely to get new ideas is classified as "by chance" method.

There are improvements to "by chance" methods -- such as the using of random words to trigger the mind to explore further. Some artists practice throwing paints, breaking things, and letting the law of probability works to create new association and the new ideas.

Some Creative Gurus have spent the extra effort to create specific list of words with respect to the particular subject of investigation to direct the flows of ideas. This has achieve two purposes - triggering new ideas and ensuring the new ideas are more applicable to the subject of study.

I am more for "By Design and Directed- Innovative Thinking" especially directed at breaking through our thinking fixations, blind spots and inertia.

A simple method is to list down our assumptions in our thinking and decision making process and then questioning the assumptions. A more advance method, yet still easy to follow, is BVITS Business Value Innovative Thinking Symbols - a method developed by me from studying the key features of many creative thinking methods like Structured Problem Solving, Triz and its derivatives, Blue Ocean Strategy, Axiomatic Designs, and many many others.

Directed Thinking ensures comprehensive exploration of ideas in the close-to optima spaces, facing up the contradictions and breaking free from the contradictions. It is just more effective.
The very Basic of BVITS thinking method has been computerized so that it can be used to generate ideas quickly. Try it out by go to BVITS Overview and download Axon Idea Processor and the BVITS Ideas Generator written with Axon. Give me your comments.