What is the system in the middle of 9 windows?

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
system present
 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

  1. Tool/Product: Tool, in order to deliver the most useful function, changes the state of a product and can contain elements.
  2. 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.


Being Open

This is an often touched thread in my field of work; the thread of transparency in organizations.

When we deploy closed systems people ask questions around

How can I make this system open to a large number of people so knowledge sharing/discussion can happen?

When we deploy open systems people ask questions around

How can I make this system closed to a limited number of people so we can have our relevant (read private) conversations?

The platform/system will depend on the current popularity and someplace where they have no presence usually. Features, need for user functionality discussions tend to take back seat while we finish conclusively on the open/closed argument (mostly never happens in a single sitting mind you, as people want to bounce ideas internally “closed”).

Just because I CAN be more open does not mean I will be open. Why do people tend to have this warped reasoning when it comes to open information has always intrigued me, here are some

1. Fear of being misunderstood by a large number of unknown people

This fear is real, I have tried convincing people to write about a specific viewpoint that they so clearly articulate in 1 on 1 meetings, but they never had the courage to put it down on paper. This could also be a problem of language (in articulation and being unambiguous)

2. Fear of hijack of a personal idea by anyone of the large number of unknown people

If I am about to mobilize resources on an idea, I have to convey the idea as clearly as possible and if I am in a leverage mode I will have to leave room for idea building, trimming, refinement or even a change in direction. If I am that possessive about the private idea, I will cut a cd, open a bank locker and put it in, possibly throw the key in deep sea. No need to discuss further and selection of platform does not arise.

3. Hesitation to deal with the plausibly large amount of feedback that can come

Let us get real, any open information system is rampant with lurkers, 1 in 100 comment and take conversations further. This is a one reason why non-text entry user actions like “like”, “RT”, “Share” have come up.

If someone had to say something meaningful on a thread, I am all ears, I should probably bring him on board because he cared to respond.

4. Confidence/Arrogance that ideas from the select group is the best possible (both in time (best ever) and space (best on earth))

No need to discuss further and selection of platform does not arise here as well.

May be I am oversimplifying openness/transparency, what do you think? Think openly please.


Say no to ROI

Michael Mitchell made a presentation on Travel Industry trends recently. Key take-away from the session personally was on the fitment between cultures and systems and on RoI. Having been part of many M&As, made hard choices on systems, benchmarking systems, deciding where to invest for the travel industry, Michael is uniquely qualified and his perspectives are unique as well.

He started from his experience with a couple of mergers and how the choice of systems actually is not of systems itself but of culture. In any M&A does not necessarily mean the best systems will prevail but systems that support the culture that is conducive for business will be picked and sustained. Making the wrong choice means erosion of brand value (in industries like travel the brand development takes as much as 20 years) and service to customers which are actually closer to culture than IT systems. On a follow up question from Jas on how will a conglomerate like SITA develop and deploy across cultures, Michael reinforced the point that it was still a matter of choice on culture that is dominant. So as always systems fit culture and not the other way around.

There was this trend that IT leadership in the industry showing positive outlook on investing in initiatives that had "shorter RoI cycles", commenting on it he said it was not the right thing to do. My question to him was when does RoI cease to be a measure of impact, and what are the alternatives. His response was if an investment was being made to reduce costs (typically cost of transactions around a core service delivered) it is relevant, but the equation becomes murky when revenue is involved. Take advertising for example, it is hard to quantify revenue that came specifically from a marketing initiative and applying RoI is erroneous here. Incremental revenue analysis was suggested as an alternative, but in my opinion that will still have the issue of attribution of credit.