System Operator aka 9 windows is very popular in TRIZ tools specifically for problem definition and trending. I always had trouble in finding what is the system in the middle that we are talking about. I think I got the block primarily from the example that was used to teach 9 windows many years ago which had a ‘tree’ in the middle and all sorts of super system, past and future imaginations written around it.
- But is ‘tree’ a system?
- and can I put anything in the middle and construct the rest of the eight windows?
|super system future|
|sub system past|
It just did not feel right to imagine it that way even if it did remove some psychological inertia, and helped you imagine stuff by space/time boxing yourself. To go further and beyond how you are applying 9 windows, I will introduce 2 useful concepts that will help you figure what this system is
- Tool/Product: Tool, in order to deliver the most useful function, changes the state of a product and can contain elements.
- Most Useful Function: Primary utility that gives a human purpose to the tool and product
One of the better examples I have historically used is “Withdrawing money from an ATM”. Both the tool and function are clear and it is worthwhile putting it in the center. Building on further, you can easily identify both what is inside the ATM and around it quickly, again identifying each elements’ function and operating zone in space and time.
ARIZ goes another level deeper to template the definition, as below “The technical system for __utility__ includes __elements__. Tool directly interacts with the product and products need to be changing its state (e.g. processed)”
It is easy to put yourself, your company, a really complex system architecture, vague frameworks and the like in the middle of the 9 windows, but really it will not help much in your innovation effort.