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Innovation Is Good?

| On 27, Jan 2009

Ellen Domb

“How to persuade your boss that innovation is a good thing?”

I was recently invited to speak at a conference on this topic—way outside my usual comfort zone of “What is TRIZ” or “How to merge TRIZ into your Lean Six Sigma System” or “Innovation for Everybody” speeches. This conference is focused on innovation in general, not specifically TRIZ.

My initial reaction was pretty negative in several ways:

  1. If you need to persuade your boss that innovation is a good thing, maybe you need a new boss!
  2. Who would trust what a consultant says? Of course the innovation consultant thinks that innovation is a good thing!
  3. Why would a consultant be expected to know how to persuade YOUR boss of anything? Never met him/her, doesn’t know your culture, and not likely to listen, since of course the consultant is biased (see item 2)

I brought my TRIZ experience to the analysis of the situation, but you don’t need TRIZ to see what I did. One of the TRIZ techniques is to use all the available resources to solve a problem, and one variant is to include all the negative/harmful resources. This is the “Make your enemy be your friend” method. So I decided to use the negatives as the basis for the event.

My first thought was that since knowledge of the particular “boss” and the corporate culture are essential; this should be a workshop, rather than a speech. That way, the person who is looking for help gets to contribute all the knowledge of the culture and the person, and the consultant acts as facilitator—giving structure to the event, but not trying to provide content. (Exercise for the reader: express this as a TRIZ Physical Contradiction, and demonstrate the use of the separation principles!)

My second thought was the basic TRIZ concept that “Somebody, someplace has solved this problem, but for a different reason, in different circumstances…” This leads to the idea that one major structure in the workshop should be listing all the change initiatives that the company has pursued, and how management was persuaded to start them. Then a success path could be to look for similar arguments, if they were successful, OR look for opposite arguments if they were not. I’ve done this quite frequently, with companies that “piggyback” TRIZ onto Six Sigma initiatives, for example.

Readers: this is your opportunity to help me help the audience at this conference. Please use the “comments” feature to tell me any stories you have (note whether I can use the name or not!) about how you persuaded somebody that innovation is a good thing. I’ll do another column after the event, with the comments, how I used them, and what the participants contributed. THANKS!