Return of what in the world is triz?

When I made case for systematic innovation in consulting, I did not recommend any specific method set. The one that I am trained and have practiced is called TRIZ (aka TIPS/Theory of Inventive Problem Solving). Its basis is patents, it provides many methods to define a problem, find and resolve any of the 39 parameters trade offs / contradictions with 40 principles, recommend solutions for standard problems from its 76 solution portfolio, predict product/system from its 8 evolution trends. All the good things. From we have chatted on beginner questions to Dr Ellen Domb one of the few articulate world leaders in TRIZ based innovation as a podcast in 2 parts (Part 1 and part 2).

But it all comes with a few catches, if you cannot get the language of TRIZ, you cannot apply easily, if you do not apply you cannot learn, and if you never learn, you are always running short on good ideas. So really the facilitator’s role in TRIZ first is demystify, handhold in using the methods, never give out an idea even as an example, and mostly be silent, listen and ask questions. If the method is so systematic can I not get a machine to do all this in a flow, certainly possible and that route has been taken up by a few researchers.

As a leader it is necessary to make that time for your team to learn. And once that happens, some test the waters, some believe, some suspect, some ignore,

some really apply and when they do and get an idea that they never thought was possible beyond what was already told by the ‘resident genius’….. it starts to happen again and again.


Making case for systematic innovation in consulting

I am in the idea business for about 7 years now, usually my kitty is small in terms of budget to spend, management attention, and customer appetite to ideas. Problems/Opportunities are as always many and wide. Making this a green territory for the consultant in me. 3 realities that I face are pictured below. I will then pick reasons from each and make case for the consultant in you to learn a systematic innovation method this year. It is still not too late for a resolution.

First no one including you, your boss, his/her boss, their customer, his/her investor knows for sure which will be the greatest idea (since sliced bread, iPhone, facebook, flush toilet, the movable type, safety-pin, or whatever). Greatest here is one that gives max return, finds large customer base, impacts life, etc on the outcome side. So I go for safety with numbers, instead of the 2 large bets can I get 200 ideas and later ruthlessly eliminate, or make ideas robust socially from that base before investing. If I knew how to get from 2 to 200 ideas in say 4 hours.

Second, problems manifest as contradictions or trade offs. When I try to solve one problem I have only merely shifted its base to a different department, or another part of the system. Examples could be while increasing revenue there is a disproportionate increase in marketing costs as well, while scaling up operations fast there is also significant loss of critical substance/knowledge, by increasing hourly rates am I killing a customer account slowly, and more such combinations. I don’t want to compromise on anything really, we just yet don’t know how.

Third is on the search for the rare breed genius/creative person that all of us want in our team. My experience is hugely disappointing in this front, because I can never afford this “genius in residence” and wait for the eureka moment. Instead I take safety in history, all problems that can be solved, have already been solved (by all those dead geniuses I don’t have to pay for) and I just have to adapt the solutions for my situation. Again if only I knew how.

So in short here are the 3 different reasons why you need to add ‘systematic innovation’ to your consulting arsenal/portfolio,

  1. To take safety in large number of ideas
  2. To not compromise on outcomes or merely shift problems
  3. Not afford another unpredictable genius to solve problem that have been solved elsewhere

It does not matter much what that specific innovation method is, but Sensei is guaranteeing a sharper edge to you.


Patterns in Leading Change

The idea of patterns is not new, but what is new is the methods and models for change that are now available that leverage patterns. Behavior and organizational change can now be effectively managed with these tools. I believe these will spawn variants in the consulting business (offered with the following adjectives superior, new, all new, refined, proven etc). Below are the originals that I learnt from.

Fearless change 

is a classic work, this book has a comprehensive collection of  patterns and methods to manage change, and it is very people centric. It is a worthy investment for any organization that is serious about making change be it *mm, km, innovation, 6 sigma, operational excellence or whatever.

Behavior Grid

from the BJ Fogg research base is another solid tool. I strongly recommend using the grid and methods or the easier wizard which I am sure is also a product of the applying persuasive tech.

behaviour grid

Here is my spin to the behavior grid specifically for innovation, change should be viewed as change in parameter. Green, blue, purple, grey and black are just ways in which a parameter can change. When the TRIZ contradiction matrix or another method set says parameter change, use the above as guideline for the real change.


Notes on Knowledge Continuity

I was part of a content creation for the bspin conference recently held at Bangalore on Knowledge Continuity. These notes of mine which were part of the first version which got morphed into totally something else when we finished. I felt there were some key points here that may interest Knowledge Managers. So here it goes…

Knowledge Continuity 3 D

Business continuity (for target vectors like performance, functionality, availability, ability to change, etc in IT Services) is provisioned by Knowledge continuity.

Knowledge Continuity cuts across 3 dimensions

1. People Interface/Relationships

· Such as between roles that work only in few phases (tester, BA, Architect) or between vendor and business user

2. Time

· Such as tenure in domain/account/technology

3. Content

· Such as standard operating procedures and heuristics of how experts handle crisis and how it is traded or exchanged

Common reasons that lead to loss of continuity include

1. Forgetting

2. Attrition

3. Too much or too little governance/processes

KM Strategy

Knowledge management as a strategy for achieving continuity intervenes by each of these dimensions

1. Interface: Building newer relationships across diverse groups

· Participative culture builds relationships and sustains rituals

· Diverse (not in bred) relations are formed as part of social network stimulation

2. Time: Bridging gap between expert and novice

· High Cost Experienced Resource versus Profitability equation

· Concept mapping and expertise transfer as methods to reduce time to become expert in the knowledge domain

3. Content: Sustained Knowledge creation socially

· Wiki as a preferred tool, how peer review helps in increasing quality of wikis, differences between closed and open wikis

· Structured Story Listening methods and AARs (after action reviews)

Success Determinants

Success of such KM strategy will be determined by the following

1. Culture prevalent in the enterprise, specifically drivers that create habits

2. Information and Communications Technology and its social utility value (the bargain)

3. People Policies


KM for Karnataka Power

I had the opportunity to face a bunch of engineers from Karnataka Power Corporation, which generates most of Karnataka’s power from thermal and hydro sources.

Engineers ranged from Executive category, senior, junior to assistants who are newly commissioned.

The challenges for my session were 2

1. Time given to me was 3 hours post lunch

2. My session was immediately after the regular SECI model dump by non-km practitioners

I used the following model to introduce methods that I have been using over the past 4 years.

Once the framework was clear, we took the most common problem that old systems that still operate always face.

“To repair or replace” and each group’s take on “how to reduce maintenance cost”.

Last part of my session was a regular Social Network Stimulation

Where KM ideas were solicited from the 3 teams, for convenience sake we formed groups on

1. idea collection (how will we know what ideas our fellow employees have on reducing maintenance cost),

2. group action (once we know the ideas, what do we do with them and how),

3. and management support (how can as management we sustain the first 2)

Group formation itself was across hierarchy, plants, departments and roles, so enough variety here.

This was followed by a few rounds of Ritual Dissent which everyone loved.

In the end 2 executive engineers took ownership of the ideas to take forward within their plants.

All in all a decent outcome for a slow afternoon…


Assorted Coll of Links from 2009

Story Methods and Culture

Thanks to Bob Sutton for quoting this awesome story about the Naskapi Indians and the lessons on sensemaking

Bob again Confirmation from pyschology research on how accurately people evaluate others even when time slices are as small as 30 seconds. So applying STC when time needed for evaluation tends to zero which means you are in the “present moment” aware your responses/evaluation are all the more accurate. Well beware of the induction approach here. My friend Sajeev  had this idea long time back about being able to predict how loyal an employee would be based on such time sliced behavior

Social math is just a new jargon for telling stories with data. But the examples are great starters.

Story telling resources from through Karen

More and more video sharing from folks at Green Chameleon specifically
this practical contribution to the CE open source methods. Covers both Anecdote circle and archetype extraction  also check out other videos like telling tips from Shawn in the site

Story colored glasses blog is booming and this is becoming an important reference point and a brilliant starter kit for those entering  narrative research.

I need to dig into SouthWest stories more, and see how it got embedded in the culture

One of the popular cultural records of a live company netflix

Piece from Seth on Cultural Wisdom very relevant even within organizations where different practices and functions are running with different cultural norms. And if KM has to succeed you better be culturally wise.

Knowledge Strategy

Knowledge Strategy from Cory may be a business relevant KM strategy can come forth

Been grappling with bringing business relevance to km as part of day job. Key problems cited here are not necessarily solved by appointment of CKO but a willingness to see problems through the knowledge lens at a top management level.

Other Methods and Misc

I had this AAR poster on my desk for quite some time till I recently shifted my desk, the IKEA analogy poster works

Wenger’s original Learning is social CoP paper   from Library clips
It still serves as reference to Key interventions that a community facilitator reporting probably to a central function should at least be aware of.

Loved  the list of lies from Kawasaki and it only becomes truer by the day. I see more CEOs in my company now than I did in my entire career.

Dysfunctions list from Jack Vinson Abilene Paradox was interesting.

Must have collection on dystopia/utopia from Dave

From part 1 on the training series at another domain, but the broad problems of training or the lack of it remains the same in my domain as well

books, cognoise

Transition Planning Applying Method Cards

I was meaning to write about this since last KM Asia when my boss got the KM method cards and the guidebook from Patrick Lambe . My KM day job is around IT Projects delivery and I am in a way limited by the tool set that is available for the projects’ disposal to do better things with Knowledge. So I shuffled the deck of method cards barring the tools.

My goal is to pick and choose what might make a decent set of methods and approaches for managing transitions that are so common. We routinely take over applications either from our customers or other vendors for maintenance and on going sustenance support. I set out to create a tool kit for practitioners to immediately use.

Here are the specific Method cards that came out

1. Cultural Archetypes: A representation of org culture and is very effective in making people speak about key issues without getting personal or talking apple pie motherhoods. As the card indicates Anecdote Circle is necessary for collection of a large body of narratives. Even an ethno would do here. You can find a detailed method for Archetype creation on Cognitive Edge. Works best when done on the floor or a large table rather than wall.

2. Story Listening: Obviously this makes perfect sense. I refer to Kurtz’s work that is fresh.

3. Story Telling: When you tell a good story you actually trigger patterns/emotions in the listener, that is buried deep. Template for stories or constantly looking for turnaround stories or just telling positive stories are all recipes but not close to the principles of narrative, which is best captured in this screen writing bible by McKee

4. Expertise Knowledge Audit Interview: X has 5 years more experience than Y, in any work performance of X is scales higher than Y. To bridge this gap we need to be able to articulate what X knows. Because experienced folks are expensive, and every large group with more experienced folks comes under the “measurement of efficiency” radar. The group may have to trim itself of these experts in an unplanned manner, so we need to manage this knowledge leak, and loss in a way that it provides continuity for the group as well as business continuity for customers. Here I feel Crandall, Klein et al work is best in the excellent handbook Working Minds.

5. Knowledge Audits and Maps: You may know lots of forms of knowledge maps, but most still lacks the dimension of knowledge flow. It is working for my context best as it renders itself nicely for operational reviews at group level and improves find and opens up opportunities for sharing and collaboration.

6. Anecdote Circles: Main reference for AC is on CE

Here are the specific Approach cards that came out

1. Expertise Transfer: The card included all sorts of methods and tools that covered a wide range of group facilitation, to personal learning methods, to representation. My picks for the context of a project in addition to above would be concept mapping, and Peer Assist

2. SME: This Approach I feel works best within a CoP. Most prominent issue I see here in organizations is there is no expectation/responsibility set for this on the SMEs.

All in all the cards provides a range of methods and approaches and what is likely to work in context and in conjunction.