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Attitude vs. Tools

| On 15, Feb 2010

Jack Hipple

As an engineer and someone involved with TRIZ and innovation audits of organizations, I frequently find myself in discussions and conflicts with more right brained creativity individuals. I will define right brained as those who basically believe that in the fields of creativity and innovation it is quantity that is important. In other words, any approach that increases the ability to generate more ideas, the better.

I have been in these types of session where the quantity of ideas generated was the yardstick for success (not useful ideas, but total number of ideas). I have also seen some exercises such as walking around matrices that are supposed to generate significant new ideas. All of you have seen group sessions involving any number of techniques involving balloons, music, etc that are supposed to improve our creativity.

I think I have finally figured out how to have a rational discussion about these approaches vs. more structured, left brained processes. That discussion revolves around understanding the difference between attitudes and tools. To be more innovative requires a desire to do something different than is normally done, a competitor is doing, or something that might be needed in the future that is not obvious. There is no point in learning tools that may be needed to allow this to happen without a basic change in attitude. This attitude cannot be changed for any length of time by executive edict and especially not if the edict is not followed up by sincere and continuous support. If an organization has a long history of incremental improvement, listening only to current customers, and doing only what the boss says, there must be an attitude change, up and down the organization. Replacing people may be necessary.

Some of the soft tools such as breakouts, adventures, and internal parties and kickoffs, are frequently necessary to let people know that there is a step change coming and management is serious. However, if requests for freedom and financial support to do something new and different are denied because we will never do something like that, the boss will not like it, or we have no money to do that, then the truth will echo around the organization as fast as EM can travel.

There must be a fundamental shift to think and act differently. It is critical at this point to also understand and acknowledge what the climate is and that means understanding the profile of the organization, using one of many organizational assessment tools. If an organization is composed of 80 percent Myers Briggs sensors and strongly adaptive individuals as identified with Kirton KAI, the challenge to think outside of the box is going to be extraordinarily difficult. People will be frustrated and the results desired will be almost impossible to achieve. The attitude of wanting to change the status quo must be there. Someone who does not see the value in change is going to be difficult to motivate toward true innovation. By the way, it would be no easier for the opposites of these individuals to deal with a short term structured emergency or a quality control procedure analysis. If there is a basic shift in attitude, then we can discuss how to accomplish the goal of the change in attitude.

What is needed now are tools for innovation that support the change in attitude and environment. If the problem is not too challenging, simple tools such as CPS, or DeBono processes may be sufficient. If it is one that has serious contradictions, is complex, or has been approached unsuccessfully for years, it may take more complex tool kits such as TRIZ. There are areas of overlap between them and ways to combine can be very effective. Each of these tools requires a different kind of attitude shift. All require some level of belief in a structured approach and process as opposed to random brainstorming. To be effective these tools and processes must be used broadly, not just by the troops, but the senior executives who are touting the value of them without having used them. The first use of them should be at the executive level to analyze the challenge of innovation inside their organization.We need to understand there is a difference between attitude and tools. If we want innovation and change, we need to change both and it may require different approaches to each.