Building a Strong Four-legged Stool for Continual Innovation 

 November 18, 2014

By  Howard Cooper

A few days ago, I was speaking with a gentleman about i3DAY Innovation services, trying to explain to him why i3DAY is not an innovation training service, yet it is. He then asked, “So, are they a consulting firm”? My answer was, “It is, but that’s not i3DAY’s purpose.” “So, what is i3DAY, really,” he asked, “and what is their purpose?” My answer to him was, “i3DAY is an innovation facilitator, or ‘think tank’ facilitator, but, that’s not their purpose either. Their ultimate purpose is to empower you and your organization with the process and tools to benefit and profit from being a continual innovator, in your own right. ‘To assist those who seek to be rapid innovators in solving the problems of today and those striving to predict and produce the products, software apps and services needed in the future.

The purpose of any innovation consulting or training firm should NOT be to consult, nor to train, but to help the student or client become a more independent and capable innovator. Yet, I have noticed these two problems, over the past several years:
1. The more problems a consultant solves for a company, the more reliant or co-dependent the company becomes on that consultant, and
2. Training, given to individuals within a company, too often helps the company temporarily, but often helps those individuals get better jobs elsewhere. All too often it does not help the company or organization become a more independent and capable innovator.

Why? And, how can we develop and hold innovative individuals while also creating a more independently innovative company? Innovative people love working for innovative companies. So, how do we move or empower organizations to become rapid innovators? A place where innovators want to stay?

Building a Strong “four legged stool” for Continual Innovation.

From Altshuller’s study of over 200,000 patents, we find there are only three types of problems to be solved (by invention, innovation or innovative thinking);

  • Problem Type 1: System parameter constraints or conflicts
  • Problem Type 2: Physical contradictions, and
  • Problem Type 3: Identifying the Future Iteration, Product or Process needed and most feasible.

The beautiful thing is, we now have tools to quickly provide direction and the information needed, to solve each of these three problem types. Three legs of a four-legged stool. The fourth leg is having the right structured processes to use these tools, not only to solve (ARIZ) but also to identify, implement and bring to market these innovations (DeBono).  The seat or top of the stool is your innovation team and subject matter experts. Standing on this “stool” (tools and processes) they will be able to reach much higher and innovate much more quickly than ever before.  And, lastly, what about the leg cross braces which make the stool sturdy and keep the legs from spreading apart and breaking?  These cross braces are the innovation management models from Clayton Christensen, which i3DAY uses to help managing disruptive innovations.

The Right Tool for the Job

When I first learned about the first leg of this four-legged stool, how to solve Type 1 Problems using the TRIZ Matrix, I thought it was the most powerful thing I had ever seen. I created a set of eTRIZ tools for solving reliability, safety, maintainability, diagnostic, weight, thermal, HFE, manufacturing and productivity problems as well as a general design constraint problem solver. I used this tool like a cure-all for innovation, but I only had a “one legged stool”.  How useful is a one legged stool?  If you are a dairy farmer and it’s time to milk the cows, strapping on a one legged stool is an absolute necessity.  But, it is not good for other applications and absolutely worthless if you need to stand on your stool to reach something higher than you can normally reach.  But, it was like most boys who first discover how to use a hammer to drive nails. Wow, how powerful is that? So, the kid goes around driving nails into everything.  Then he comes to realize that the saw and measuring tape are also absolute necessities for a carpenter.  It was at that point that I found there were other problem types, needing other tools.  A good carpenter also needs to understand the process, “Measure twice, cut once.” Then hammer it into place.”

So, it was at that point, realizing I only had a one legged stool, that I realized a wider study of innovation methodologies was needed.  Four years later the complete i3DAY Innovation methodology emerged. With these tools, processes and innovation management models, our purpose is to enable and empower you and your organization to become and independent and consistent, rapid innovator, at all levels within you company process, and as an innovator of future products and services. We provide training for using these tools, processes and management models. Yes.  We facilitate innovative think tank sessions. Yes. And, then we watch and guide while you learn to facilitate.  We also help you implement the “27 Innovation Links” and innovation process into your corporate or ISO-9001 quality and engineering process, to transform your organization or company into an innovative entity. Your organization will then naturally attract, rather than lose, innovative employees. Your products and services can quickly evolve to lead the market in functionality, quality, marketability and profitability.  Let i3DAY help you build that four-legged stool.

About the author

Howard C. Cooper is a Design for Six Sigma Black Belt, Systems Engineer and founder of i3DAY Innovation. Over the past decade he coached 26 different product development teams at General Dynamics through solving their most critical challenges; design constraints, safety, reliability, etc. All 26 design and development projects were accepted in critical design peer reviews. All 26 were adopted by the U.S. Army, currently saving $233 million per year, over the legacy systems they had been using.

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