Saturday, May 9, 2009

Best Time, Team and Technique for Innovation …

... do they exist?

Time …

I get some of my best ideas when I am not trying to get one, while not at my desk, during a casual walk. One probably does not innovate on 25th Avenue, at 3:00 p.m. Sometimes, the harder one tries to sleep, more difficult it becomes, same with ideas.

However, on a broader level, if one does not have an innovation agenda, innovation probably doesn’t happen. So it is a good idea to create a placeholder for innovation, meet to take stock; meet to elaborate the ideas.

Time boxing does not help in innovating; however the other extreme - time pressure gets amazing output, sometimes!

Team …

Focus groups, Innovation councils, R&D teams, Centre of Excellences, apart from doing innovation are better suited for doing equally important tasks of managing innovation. They are better equipped to provide the anchor for an organization’s innovation agenda, anchor for ideas from across the organization and optionally from outside the organization.

There is no such thing as idea team, there shouldn’t be.

Techniques …

Six Thinking Hats, or TRIZ are great techniques to ideate and innovate, however I believe that if one has a Six Thinking Hats or TRIZ mindset then it is far more productive than having a round table discussion for innovation using these techniques.

I read that some people are successful in submitting their problems to their mind, sleeping over it, and the subconscious mind coming up with clues, if not the solution the next morning.
I believe in something similar – our minds have an incredible capability in parallel imagination for the problems we have at hand. Leverage this, submit the problem to yourself, don’t start working on it.

Organizations should have capability to manage ideas and innovations just like an ERP manages inventory or General Ledger.

Don’t ignore non-techniques like gut feeling and intuition.

One old fashioned thing, record your ideas, however stupid or great. Instead of remembering idea, sometimes I only remember that I had a good one!

In a nutshell … ideas during after hours, at a lab, in the bathroom or on a treadmill … Innovation teams more as an anchor across and beyond organization … Innovation techniques with processes diluted … is probably the best time, team and technique for the innovation.


  1. Mostly agree with you. just a small comments.
    Classical ARIZ - ARIZ 85-C make this process much better manageable. It help to produce set of useful partial ideas and integrate them into few satisfactory solutions. To work with team it is better to use TRIZ based OTSM Problem Flow Networks (PFN) approach, rather that ARIZ. ARIZ seems too much complicated for those who did not spend enough time to learn it carefully. In reality behind Altshuller's ARIZ are some simple ideas - Three Postulates of Classical TRIZ. And text of ARIZ is just detail description on how those general postulates could be used for everyday practice. The more often we use ARIZ the more simple it becomes in using. Finally all of steps have happened automatically and it means that we appear as TRIZ experts who use TRIZ intuitively. ARIZ provokes and initiates our Unknown Unconsciouses creative processes. And, as American scientist discover, our brain work on problem even if we did not formulate and even recognize a problem. ARIZ helps us activate this process. It is very interesting subject I do research on ARIZ implementation almost 30 years. And it is amazing how ARIZ help people to improve their creative skills. My experience absolutely conform the experience of Genrich Altshuller: the earlier and deeply people start to learn ARIZ the quicker they became a good TRIZ experts and problem solvers in various domain.
    Above all TRIZ is a theory on creating new tools for problem solving. And ARIZ is a first step to start to understand TRIZ as a Meta tool for creating your own tolls for problem solving whenever you need them/ I.e. when you faced with very difficult and complex problematic situation. Using ARIZ helps to develop thinking process that involves both - left and right hemispheres. That is why ARIZ is the most efficient toll of classical TRIZ.

  2. Our research at Eureka! Ranch International shows that one of the best methods for generating new innovative ideas is using technology stimulus. In other words, look at leading edge technologies to spark new ideas.

    Our system has been statistically validated to create 8x more high quality than traditional brainstorming. To learn more about our approach go to - It's the best system I've come across to help anyone create lots of quality ideas.

  3. To some extent I agree and disagree with you. I beleive it is rare for "teams" to innovate in that they have the "bright idea" as the team. In my experience, individuals have the breakthrough ideas and usually these are a small sub set of all of your staff - the same people come up with the ideas. However the "team" creates the stimulus and the input. Creating a team to consider an area, and brainstorm might create some ideas and elucidate the challenge. However the creative individuals after being exposed to this environment will come up with the idea. In my case, I have my best ideas when I am in the bath! (generally a solitary event!!!!).
    Is it therefore a team event or individual activity - it is a combination of both. The team provides the stimulus, the individual provides the idea. However one without the other wont create the idea

  4. Important question before interpreting your text: what do you mean by innovation?
    It seems that you refer to creativity and generation of ideas more than anything else.
    Perhaps I missed something in between your lines but most of your sentences are vague and poorly connected.
    Innovation management is indeed a necessary component of modern corporate management. You might like to consider reviewing Tidd and Bessant's managing innovation seminal book. You will find the answer to your initial question, starting by a proper definition of what innovation entails.

  5. Great thread. First, to Jayesh's 3 Ts I add a fourth: Trust. It is the secret ingredient of team effectiveness. Only when team members trust each other can the most creative ideas emerge. The role of trust is documented by Gratton & Erickson and reported in their paper "8 Ways to Build Collaborative Teams." Which leads to a build on the comment on individual vs group contributions. In really effective teams a process emerges where the inspirations of each team member are vollied back and forth between and among all the team members. I use the tennis analogy on purpose. In tennis one player serves the ball, giving it spin. The other player reads the spin, absorbs it and adds their own spin, sending the ball off in a new direction. Sometimes this can lead to amazing rallies, where a good return sets up a better shot, and so on. Teams members don't have to be super stars for these magic moments to emerge. Teams that are working well volley ideas back and forth. It starts with trust. And processes and tools that enable the capture and growth of the ideas as they are vollied back and forth. These are the conditions that set off an innovation spiral.

  6. To succeed and sustain a competitive advantage in a world where business gets tougher, organizations need to increase the rate of innovation. The theory of Inventive Problem solving (TRIZ) is an approach that can increase a person’s ability to generate creative solutions and help almost every organization to develop innovative capabilities.