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Introducing Innovation Tools


Anyone who likes to keep up to speed with the latest business techniques should know that there's a new theory in town. It's called TRIZ, not the catchiest of titles granted, but then this isn't the usual highly-marketed, well-packaged material from across the Atlantic. TRIZ is a Russian concept. It stands for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (the acronym remains true to its Russian origins), and according to its devotees is a shortcut to innovative problem solving and strategic thinking.

In the coming months, TrainingZONE's new series on innovation tools will unveil methods to help you come up with inventive solutions. Author of the series Brian Campbell talks to TrainingZONE about how the innovation techniques he learned while working in research and development can have wide-ranging benefits for all fields of work.

Innovation tools – sounds like a help book for an R&D department – how is it useful for trainers?
I think traditionally R&D is seen as the place where innovation happens, but that really isn't the case. Perhaps using the term problem solving makes it easier to understand, after-all who doesn't have problems? For trainers it could be any number of questions such as how to improve a course or improve customer satisfaction. It's very easy to narrow in on a problem and in doing so, not see all the possibilities. Innovation tools help widen your search. Innovation is about trying to do things better and, hopefully, that's something we are all striving to do.

How did you get involved in innovation?
I worked in the R&D department at Pilkington and we set up a team to look at innovation techniques, things like brain-storming and de Bono. I found it all fascinating and incredibly useful. Then I went on a TRIZ course and that was it!

What sold you on the concept?
The fact that there was such a huge amount of research done into the best methods to solve issues, and all of it was freely available. It is simple to use, you don't have to do the hard graft, you just take the tools and use them. It takes the majority of the work out of problem solving and gives you a new language to help you think strategically.

What are the benefits of these tools?
TRIZ helps you find out why you have got the problem, what the issues are and how you can resolve them. Any problem may seem unique to you, but the first step is to take that issue and turn it into a generic problem and find out how other people have solved it. The tools help you get a distance on whatever the issue is and think around it.

Who will find the tools most useful?
If someone is going on a TRIZ course and they are already a problem solver, they will fly. If someone can't solve problems, they won't get so much out of it.

Who needs to read this series?
Any senior manager should be aware of these tools and techniques. The whole issue of decision making which is generally to improve things or solve problems and you will find that most MBAs now look at innovation tools. Everyone who is paid to think in some capacity would benefit from problem solving tools.

* Read the first instalment of our innovation tools series on Brainstorming here.


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