Tuesday, May 08, 2007

There are solutions in polarities

It turns out that whole books have been written about how to avoid solving problems!

In a quest to better understand organizations, Barry Johnson founded four of them: a 24 hour crisis intervention center, a community-based newspaper, a residential treatment center for addicted adults and, a manufacturing company. In the process, he received his Ph.D. in Organization Development. An independent consultant in the combined areas of management development and organizational design, Dr. Johnson has worked in both the private and public sectors in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Since 1975 has developed a set of management principles called Polarity Management.

Dr Johnson has a message for us, “The bad news is that there are a large number of unsolvable problems in your life, both at work and at home. I’m not talking about difficulties you could solve if you had more money, time, or other resources. I’m talking about difficulties that are inherently unsolvable, one you cannot solve with resources. The good news is that you can stop trying to solve them. Instead, you can improve your skills in identifying unsolvable problems and managing them well.” Johnson, B., Polarity Management, HRD Press, 1992

Is he right? Are there unsolvable problems? I don't think so. TRIZ tells us otherwise. Download the story in this comprehensive PDF.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oliver's Garage

Here is an engaging, true story involving an eleven year old boy, a set of Lego bricks, three garages, and an innovation process. The story illustrates how, using P-TRIZ, any business process can be improved, yielding an ideal design.

We recently had our car vandalized while it was parked outside of our home. Our kids were upset, so we tried to turn a negative experience into positive learning. I asked my son Oliver, then eleven years old, to design a system that would help to protect the car from future attack. Being a boy of a certain age, he dreamt up a rather sophisticated solution, and, of course, went on to build a model of it using his extensive collection of Lego bricks. His solution consisted of a variety of deadly weapons and other military grade equipment, including laser cannons, infrared detectors commandoes, and helicopters. It was a very exciting design.

Oliver was pleased with his solution, but I felt he could do better if he used the theories of innovation. So I asked him a simple question. “Oliver,” I asked, “What are the useful and harmful features of your solution?”

Download a PDF (22 pages) for the full story and pictures of Oliver's Garage.