I started discussing innovation and the importance of encouraging and developing an innovative culture through continuous improvement that is driven by ‘Why not?’ over the last couple of weeks. These discussions have been popular and driven many great discussions regarding methods and tools that can help to encourage innovation. One of those discussions was with Gregory Frenklach who has a very intriguing career in developing methods for innovation and problem solving tools and techniques. After some discussion with Gregory I thought that the discussion would be of interest to others. So here is a bit more of my discussion with Gregory for you, starting with Gregory’s background.
TB - Gregory, please provide some information on your background and your interests -
GF - I am a TRIZ (inventive problem solving) expert with about twenty five years of problem solving experience in various fields of technology like microelectronics, medical devices, precise mechanics and robotics etc. I have developed a number of TRIZ based innovation methods, a TRIZ based software (“Inventor Assistant”), and various training materials for managers, engineers and students. I have also developed MUST (multilevel universal system thinking) – unique, in my opinion, as a software tool supporting and encouraging innovation methodology (http://www.bmgi.com/sites/bmgi.com/files/Some%20Thoughts%20About%20TRIZ%20Feature%20Transfer%20Into%20Other%20Field%20of%20Human%20Life.pdf) I also participated in development of the last versions of the TRIZ Guided Brainstorming software (http://gbtriz.com/Products.htm)
My life was changed by Genrich Altshuller's books (G.Altshuller developed TRIZ - the Russian acronym for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) and wrote many books and articles on the subject. . The effect of the first Altshuller's book (In English it is known under name "The Innovation Algorithm") that I have read was like someone suddenly had switched on a light in a dark room and I could clearly see the things which were hidden in darkness. Since this moment my life was connected with TRIZ and innovation.
I would prefer to focus on problem solving methods that are intended for team or individual work instead of speaking about teams and personalities. I study and classify various personalities only in order to build methods that are more suitable for them.
TB - What problem solving methods have you experience with that have provided positive results?
GF - TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving), TRIZ VEA (Value Engineering Analysis), TOC TP (Theory of Constraints Thinking Procedures), TRIZ Guided Brainstorming. I would also add to this list "hybrid" of TRIZ with TOC TP and I-MUST (Innovation Multilevel Universal System Thinking). I-MUST was developed by me (http://www.bmgi.com/sites/bmgi.com/files/Multi-level%20Problem%20Solving.pdf). The "hybrid" of TOC TP and TRIZ we have developed together with my companion Rony Mann (http://www.bmgi.com/sites/bmgi.com/files/TRIZ%20Marriage%20with%20TOC%20Deliver%20Improved%20Product.pdf). The new system of Inventive principles for TRIZ Guided Brainstorming was developed together with Sergey Malkin (http://gbtriz.com/Guided_Brainstorming_Companion.pdf http://gbtriz.com/TRIZGB.htm).
TB - Are there different problem solving methods that work better for individuals or teams?
GF - TRIZ and I-MUST work better for individuals. All the rest work better for teams.
TB - Have you worked with a system that effectively measures the success of these systems centered methods?
GF - Positive results (solutions for problems that were not solved for years, meaningful cost reduction when it looks as impossible etc.) are the best metrics in my opinion.
TB - What methods and tools would you recommend to start down the path of this type of team development?
GF - The mentioned above "hybrid" TOC TP with TRIZ and TRIZ Guided Brainstorming are suitable methods for innovation teams.
TB - How do you suggest teams utilize these systems centered methods to drive innovation?
GF - In my opinion the first step is to drive pilot projects – facilitated workshops. During the workshops teams start to learn the methods and apply them to resolve their real problems under supervision of an experienced facilitator - at the practitioner level. Then from the team are chosen those that will continue to learn the methods on professional level and apply them to resolve complex innovation problems – the second step. Among these professionals will be chosen a few persons that will continue lean the methods to become facilitators and lead and train innovation teams – the third step.
TB - I hope this provides some incentive to try these tools mentioned by Gregory, I think there is a great deal of potential and value in utilizing these tools to encourage innovation in your company. As Gregory suggests - start with a facilitated pilot to test the capabilities and then expand as you gain experience and value.