Innovation Equation

Innovation at this level is more complex and requires either more individual thought or better yet group efforts. James Higgins argues that creativity can be increased by both increasing the levels of personal and group creativity through learning certain techniques (processes). If these occur within the right organizational culture (possibilities), the result is innovation, as shown in the “Innovation Equation” figure. Increasing personal creativity involves a three-pronged effort: 1. Increasing the individual’s level of intuition, meaning the right side of the brain. 2. Freeing the individual from any socialization that may have limited his or her creativity. 3. Learning creative processes. Increasing group creativity requires the learning of group creativity processes, and also the proper management of group dynamics. 

Competitiveness Model

In Levels 3 and 4, four principal types of innovation predominate. These are: 1. Product innovation, a physical product or service, or an enhancement either. 2. A process innovation, process for improving efficiency or effectiveness. 3. A marketing innovation, a new marketing concept or action. 4. A management innovation, a new way of managing. The sweet spot of innovation in these four areas is shown in the “Competitiveness Model” figure. William Hall and Michael Porter found that firms that have a very high degree of differentiation relative to competitors, or low-cost position relative to competitors, operate within competitive power alleys. It is important to know if your company is targeting one or the other of these, as can be found in your mission, vision and value statements. These two power alleys are the target areas for Level 3 and 4 innovation. 

When working in groups its best to use structured processes. The most common of these is brainstorming. This method was first introduced by Alex Osborne in his book Applied Imagination in 1949. Although brainstorming is perhaps the most widely known, it is also the most misunderstood and abused. There are four rules that have to be applied religiously. They are to suspend judgment, free will (anything goes), go for quantity, and cross-fertilize. Suspending judgment is perhaps the toughest thing to do. Most of the time comments and criticism creep into the discussion even though people are trying to hold them back. The next most difficult thing to do is to go for quantity. It’s interesting to note how groups of abhor silence. Usually what will happen in a brainstorming session is that a whole bunch of ideas will come immediately out of peoples’ heads. After that, the number of ideas slows down. Most groups of abhor silence so as the idea flow stops, the meeting usually ends prematurely. As a result most groups give up too early and stop way before non-normal 2-Sigma and 3-sigma thinking occurs.

There are lots of other tools in addition to brainstorming that are useful at this level of creativity. From a cultural standpoint the guidelines are: Don’t judge too soon, handle newborns with care, accentuate the positive, harness the subconscious, if you can’t say something nice…., use Ha Ha to create Aha, don’t worry be happy, and value people. From the personal standpoint the guidelines are: plant seeds for the future, mental exercise, thinking is allowed, an open mind, sometimes do-it-yourself, you are the final judge, enthusiasm spreads, take the plunge, create a crisis, opportunities in deviations, technology push or market pull, share your ideas, take a break, and break your mental chains. Guidelines with respect to group behavior are to: overcome barriers, overcome fear, overcome failure, overcome tradition, and overcome bureaucracy. On the positive side this means groups must take advantage of: variety, diversity, perspective, and individuality. Specific methods of creative problem solving include: creative thinking skills, breaking the rules, affinity diagramming, force field diagrams, mindstorms, paired discussions, throwing the ball, passports, blue slips, Fishbone diagram, random words, thinking hats, try metaphors, try different perspective, try a random walk, reinvent the wheel, new uses for old things, combine concepts, working teams, and observe firsthand. 

An excellent resource for innovation on the marketing side is the book “Jumpstart Your Brain” by Doug Hall. In this book he walks through his Eureka stimulus response creativity method and underscores the methodology backing his philosophy of a “brain operating system”. In R&D organizations this approach was further validated and it was found that the “brain operating system” is oftentimes equal to the fun and ease of thinking. The formula looks like:

Number of Eureka Inventions = (Stimulus + Brain Operating System)Fun

What Doug explored thoroughly was the fact that fun is in the exponent, and not simply a term that is added or multiplied. Work at the Avery Dennison Research Center in the mid-1990s modified the formula for R&D to look like:

Number of Next Generation Inventions = (stimulus + (book knowledge * experiences) (Fun Atmosphere + Ease of Obtaining Background Information)

The added elements here are the Brain Operating System, which is book knowledge times your experiences. In the exponent “fun” is replaced by having a fun atmosphere in which to work, coupled with the ease of obtaining background information. What was found was that if background information (that is the ability to run literature searches or two quick experiments in the lab) is difficult, the number of new inventive ideas falls off dramatically. This observation led to significantly increased resourcing of information scientists and competitive intelligence professionals. The leverage such individuals have on an organization’s performance is oftentimes overlooked! The key is that most people think of those individuals and support personnel as having leverage that is either additive or multiple, not exponential as it turns out Doug’s research showed.

Another excellent resource on personal creativity is a book “Escape From The Maze: Nine Steps To Personal Creativity” by James Higgins. This book was written primarily for the person just getting started in the field of creativity and wanting to improve their performance. He walks through the process, starting with accepting your innate creativity, then moving onto exercises to improve your use of your own brain, how to understand your own preferences, pursuit of perfection, and judging information during a creative problem solving process. He details ways to use creativity techniques such as brainstorming, mind-mapping, scamper, excursions and intuition. He then closes the book with thoughtful exercises on using both sides are your brain, both left and right.

Yet another excellent resource for group performance on creating next-generation products through collaborative play is a book on “Innovation Games” by Luke Hohmann. This book shows how innovation games can be used as a market research technique. Ideation is especially insightful when customers are involved in the new product innovation processes using this methodology. He gives detailed descriptions of how to use his 12 specific games: Why the game works, what’s needed for preparing to play the game, the rules for playing the game, how to process the results, and how to implement in an organization the outcomes.

Benchmarking Process Steps

As innovation gets harder to do at Level 5 “Doing Things Other People Are Doing”, benchmarking is a tool of great value. A shown in the “Benchmarking Process Steps” figure, this is an orderly process to search for industry best-practices that, once adopted, lead to superior performance. When conducting Step 2, Identify Comparable Companies, business, technology, and intellectual property databases are all useful. Using all three data sources insurers a high probability of finding an organization with a comparable product or process. When undertaking Step 3, Determine Data Collection Method and Collect Data, the techniques outlined in Chapter 23, When And How To Access External Technology, are most useful.

Another powerful technique used in innovation at these levels is to utilize unstructured information mining. IBM lead the way in this regard. By using voice recognition software along with powerful databases, customer interactions can be recorded and mined for hidden information. In addition to “voice of the customers” there can also be the “voice of the employee”, which when mined often shows ideas for new products or services when the information is structured by machines and displayed graphically. Patent information can also be mined for new trends. On a large scale brainstorming can be conducted with design jams and innovation jams. Organizations such as IBM have successfully experimented with such jams in groups up to several thousand people. 

On the marketing side, as problems get harder, focus groups, voice of the customer, and observation of customers is also a necessity. This is done (either directly or through the use of two-way mirrors, videotaping of product usage, mapping and usage patterns among a variety of customers, and most recently virtual display of shopping or use environments at the same time subjects are wired and recorded for eye movement, heart rate, and emotional response. Each of these techniques is of course aimed at creating insight into unusual patterns that can be developed by a group into a new product or service concept.

Ideas obtained from customers can be segmented into four concepts with respect to customer service: 1. Anticipatory customer service to serve the unexpressed needs and wishes of the customer. This can be done with anticipatory artificial intelligence relevant to someone who is browsing or looking at a particular item by inquiring with the opening line “I see that you’re interested in… Would you like to explore… “ 2. If customer service can be delivered more efficiently via automation or self-service, look for ways to offer that as an option. 3. Focus on fixing the beginnings and endings of customer service interactions and make sure that it is available 24 x 7 with people or bots who introduce themselves in a warm and interested manner based on anything they can know ahead of time or detect. 4. Fix any “broken windows“ in customer service that would leave a bad impression; which means focusing on exceptional product quality and design when innovating new products. 

TRIZ methodology, introduced to the Western world and nearly 1990s, after being used in many years in Russia, has also found utility in specific industry segments. The methodology has been reduced to software by companies such as Ideation and Invention Machine, and provided as a service by both Ideation and Innovation-TRIZ companies. The methodologies involve three different classes of problem-solving. The first is usually called inventive problem-solving’s (IPS) which helps individuals solve complex technical problems by organizing their thinking process into five steps. These are documenting the problem, formulating the problem, prioritizing directions for innovation, developing solution concepts, evaluating results and planning implementation. This is supported by software which was based on patterns of innovation uncovered at the Russian patent office. Many users view this methodology as a guided brainstorming activity that generates very high success rates, particularly for mechanical and electrical related problems. In these areas, case studies found that students using TRIZ operators created solutions of the preferred type with an increase of 74% in cognitive accuracy over students not using TRIZ operators. Furthermore, students using the TRIZ operators tended to create fewer of the obvious solutions (an increase in cognitive precision of 27%). That said, the poorest TRIZ results are achieved in chemistry and software areas. 

The second overall process is anticipatory failure determination (AFP) which involves analyzing and predicting failures in products and processes. This is similar to a failure modes and effects analysis, typically used and developed in the aerospace industry, but goes much further in that it can look at a problem through software to determine what are likely to be constraints to a good solution of the problem, and provide suggestions where other people have invented around these weak points. Knowing that other people have already found a solution allows the problem-solver to think ahead and anticipate problems in their own product design.

The methodology culminates in directed evolution (DE) which provides a means to proactively drive innovation and growth without relying on traditional technical forecasting. The method looks at technology and market evolution, develops a comprehensive set of possible scenarios for future evolution which are based on inventive problems being solved in the past, and from the scenarios creates next-generation products processes and technologies.

As the ten lines of evolution provide excellent thinking tools for DE, they are also useful for simple brainstorming sessions. Details of the ten lines of evolution are:

1. Stages of Evolution.
Based on available information about your system and specific information related to the different stages of evolution, complete the following tasks; identify the stage in which your system resides, identify the main business objectives for the current and next stage, identify typical mistakes or traps that should be avoided, and formulate strategic objectives for the system’s development.

2. Evolution Towards Increased Ideality.
A system’s Ideality can be defined as the ratio of all useful system functions to all harmful system functions associated with the performance of the useful functions. There are five generalized ways to increase a system’s Ideality. 1. Increase the number of useful functions including: absorb the useful functions of other systems nearby the given system, or that of the environment; invention of new useful functions. 2. Improve the quality and other parameters of the useful functions. 3. Reduce the number of harmful functions, including: eliminate or prevent harmful function; divert harmful functions to other systems or parts where the harmful influence is less critical; find useful applications for harmful functions. 4. Reduce the magnitude of harmful parameters. 5. Combine the above actions to ensure a higher ratio.

3. Evolution Towards Increased Involvement of Resources.
Consider the following ways to modify available resources for better utilization: accumulation of resources, concentration of resources, combination of resources, physical and/or chemical transformation of resources.

4. Non-Uniform Development of System Elements.
Formulate contradictions for the given system using the following templates (a) a useful function (state the function) should be performed because (state the reason) and should not be performed because (state the reason). (b) A parameter (state the parameter) should be high because (state the reason) and should be low because (state the reason).
Consider resolving the formulated contradictions by applying the following separation principles: separate opposite requirements in space; separate opposite requirements in time; optimize characteristics in time; separate opposite requirements between a whole object and its parts; separate opposite requirements on the basis of changing conditions; separate an impeding part from an object; separate or remove a required part from an object.

5. Evolution Towards Increasing Dynamism and Controllability.
Consider increasing the system dynamism by improving its ability to change and adjust to multiple conditions and requirements. Use the following recommendations: increase the degree of stability; transition from a stationary to a mobile condition; divide a system into mobile parts; introduce a mobile object; apply different physical and chemical effects.
Improve the systems controllability using the following recommendations: introduce a control field; introduce a controllable additive; introduce a controllable anti-process; provide self-control of system; introduce negative or positive feedback.

6. Evolution Towards Increased Complexity Followed by Simplification.
(a) Increase the system’s complexity by segmenting it into parts and then integrating the parts in a new way. To do these follow these recommendations:
Segmentation by: make an object that is mountable; partition into simple shape parts; pulverize an object; provide for the degradation of links during partitioning.
Integration by: integrate parts into a system; add integrating elements to the system or frame; create a hierarchical structure; add an object that possesses the required properties and functions.
(b) Consider integrating the system into a higher ranking super system. This can be accomplished through transformation into a system (the combination of two identical or different systems) and / or transformation into a poly system (the combination of more than two systems). Use the following recommendations:
Build a Bi-System: from homogeneous elements; from compensating elements where one element compensates for the drawbacks of the other; from systems with shifted characteristics; from competing systems; from antagonistic systems that perform opposite functions; by combining competing systems that are in different evolutionary stages; utilizing the binary principle; creating a dynamic bi-system.
Build a Poly-System: from homogeneous elements; from compensating elements where one element compensates for the drawbacks of the other; from systems with shifted characteristics; from bi-systems; by creating a dynamic poly system. Enhance a bi- or poly-system by enhancing system links and/or increasing the differences between the elements.
(c) Consider simplifying the system using the following recommendations: apply disposable objects; apply a model or copy; make an object that is mountable; change the principle of operation; apply specialization; use more highly integrated subsystems; exclude auxiliary connecting, protecting, or housing functions; exclude duplicate elements; utilize self-service; consolidate discrete subsystems.

7. Evolution with Matching or Mismatching Elements.
Consider matching various system parameters for the purpose of improving functionality. Make the parameters equal, proportional, or mutually dependable.
Consider the intentional mismatching of various parameters for the purpose of: eliminating harmful effects by making the related parameters different, independent, opposite, etc.; making the system parameters controllable, that is, changeable depending on condition by matching or mismatching when required. Note the following system parameter should be matched or mismatched; system structure, materials, physical state, chemical properties, temperature, strength, reliability, rhythms of functioning, electric or other resistance, magnetic properties, dimensions, weights, colors.

8. Evolution Towards Micro Levels.
Consider utilizing deeper structural levels or combinations of these levels using: a system made of elements with specific shapes; poly-system made of elements with simple shapes: a poly system of small elements such as powders, microspheres, granules, drops, etc.; effects associated with substance structure such as supramolecular or crystal level; molecular phenomena; atomic phenomenon; field actions instead of substances.
Consider utilizing different aggregate shapes or combinations of states, using: solid-state substances; plastic and elastic material; gels; liquid; liquids as critical supercritical phases; gases; plasma; voids or areas with low density, vacuum, etc.; various combinations of solid, liquid, gas and plasma states such as foams, liquid saturated with gas, suspensions, sprays, dust, ionized gas, etc.; aggregate state transformations such as melting, evaporation, condensation, solidification, etc. 9. Evolution Towards Increased Use of Fields.
(a) Consider utilizing the following fields or a combination of fields:
Mechanical fields such as gravity, pressure, shocks, vibration, explosion, or acoustic waves. Special corresponding substances would be explosives.

Thermal fields such as heating and cooling, and aggregate state transformations. Special corresponding substances would be water/ice/vapor, bi-metals, shape memory effect materials.
Chemical fields where special corresponding substances would be catalysts and inhibitors.
Electrical fields such as electrical charges and electrical currents. Special corresponding substances would be dielectric materials and conductive materials.
Magnetic fields such as electrical current and permanent magnetic fields. Special corresponding substances are conductive materials and magnetic materials, magnets, and ferromagnetic particles.
(b) Consider transforming an existing but unusable field into another, more useful one.
(c) Consider changing field parameters from one to another of the following: permanent, one-dimensional field; permanent, multidimensional field; gradient and/or asymmetrical field; alternating field, rotating field, traveling field; alternating reasonance field; non-sine field such as rectangular, trapezoid; pulsed field; combination of fields with different parameters.

10. Evolution Towards Decreased Human Involvement.
Try to replace a human with a machine, device or other equipment using the following recommendations: make the process simple (reduce the level of intelligence required to realize the process); aid humans in easily automated operations that require power, accuracy, speed or some other characteristic prone to human error; substituting humans without changing the principle of operation; change the principle of operation to suited mechanized operation (i.e. pay attention to power, accuracy, speed, rather than intelligence).
Consider the following ways of substituting humans in various kinds of activities:
In Operations use simple mechanical tools instead of hands, teeth, etc.; use mechanical energy transformers and accumulators for human power, such as levers, gears, jacks, boasts, springs, sling, etc.; use nonhuman energy sources such as animals, wind, water, steam, chemical power, electrical power, nuclear power, etc.
In Control use tools to control system functioning, such as rudders, steering wheels, airfoils, guides, etc.; use special devices to transform control commands, such as amplifiers, reducers, filters, rectifiers, stabilizers, modulators, etc.; use devices to produce control commands, such as cams, gyroscopes, software, etc.
In Decision Making use various sensors such as mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical, magnetic instead of human senses as information tool; use devices for processing information such as analyzing, summarizing, measuring, and verifying; use devices to make decisions based on information analysis.