Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Snow, Parked Cars and a Creative Solution

Is this a viable solution? When there is heavy snow, in a country that is not prepared for it, roads become unpassable and traffic flow is impeded. As a result, people stay at home, or abandon cars, restricting the width of the road. This further impedes traffic flow. As a result, snow ploughs either cannot gain access to the road (Prevented), or can only clear the center of the road of snow (Counteracted). There is a physical contradiction at the heart of this situation. Cars will be parked in the road. The road clears to be clear of cars to clear it of snow. Both cannot be true at the same time. What is the solution? How about this? Separate in Time. Park on one side of the road on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the other side of the road on Tuesday and Thursday. The snow plough could then clear both sides of the roads by the end of the week.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

My Problem - Elaborated

Models such as the one below are useful in thinking through problems. In this case, the model was generated automatically from a central block "My problem", using a series of 'transforms' that intelligently add blocks to the diagram, such as:

Missing enablers
Harmful side effects
Additional benefits
Compromised solutions
Improving factors
Necessary evils

Such a model is useful to exploring abstract problems, or by changing the text, actual situations.

What is a contradiction?

There are many ways of creating a contradiction. In Southbeach, there are four simple types, well known to practitioners of TRIZ. They are:

1. Something useful produces something harmful
2. Something useful counteracts something useful
3. Something harmful produces something useful
4. Something harmful counteracts something harmful

In cases 1 and 2, when you try to increase the useful element, there is a harmful side effect. In cases 3 and 4, when you try to reduce the harmful element, there is another harmful side effect. In case 3, less of something useful and in case 4, less ability to counteract something also harmful in the situation. It is sometimes hard to spot contradictions. Take a look at case 3. Something useful is being created, so the color of the effect line is green. However, we want to reduce the harmful element or remove it altogether. We therefore are minimising the useful production.

These four simple contradictions are the basic situations that must be solved, if a situation is to improve. Revealing the contradictions in a situation is central to problem solving.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Adding Agents - Elaboration Patterns

There are many ways to add a new agent to a Southbeach diagram, so as to gain additional insight into the situation represented. A common one is to insert an agent between two others, thereby clarifying the effect between them. Here, we illustrate how to expand a model from an existing useful function, and from an existing harmful function. The eight possibilities are:

* Adding a harmful side effect (a complication)
* Adding a silver lining (useful output of a harmful function)
* Adding a 'necessary evil' - a harmful function which nevertheless counteracts the existing harmful function
* Adding a solution, an improving factor
* Adding a worsening factor - another problem
* Adding a contradiction - a useful function that also increases the harmful function
* Adding in a solution, which is unfortunately compromised by the harmful function
* Adding in a problem which is counteracted by the existing harmful function

A similar model  could be drawn around a useful function. It would share some of the patterns as before, but the language would change because of the change of perspective. For example, what was called an improving factor and a worsening factor in the context of a harmful function, could now be called barriers and enablers. Note also how the effects, and their color, are different between the two diagrams. For example, the contradiction above is an additional useful function which increases the central harmful function. Whereas in the diagram below, the additional useful function counteracts the central useful function. We want more of both, but one is decreasing the other.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Voice of the Customer - Part 2

In part 1 of Voice of the Customer we looked at how responding to a need far up the change of requirement, can lead to the wrong solution being proposed. In this model, we expand that picture with the problems that led to the client stated needs, and the solutions that emerge from the unstated requirements. You can see that, reading across from left (problems) to right (solutions), is consistent with the way the voice of the customer conversation could develop. We wonder which consultants, working with their client, could make the conceptual leap from "I need a drill" to "Here are recruitment services"? Everyone has something to sell. Knowing how to position the idea or solution in the chain of stated and unstated needs and wants, is the clue to uncovering the voice of the customer.

Take care with the Voice of the Customer - Part 1

This model illustrates how easy it can be to make a mistake about a customer's underlying needs or intentions. They say they want a drill, but they really mean they want a hole. Etc. Reading down the left column illustrates how requirements can expand. Reading down the right hand column illustrates the forward implications of  need.

When working with customers, make sure you understand the difference between stated and unstated requirements. The cross links in the model below illustrate how easy it is to make a mistake. The customer asks for X, do they really need Y? Good 'listening' consultants will look several blocks ahead. When a customer says they need X, question them carefully. Find out why.

@stated "What problem led you to say {this}?"
@stated "What are you hoping to achieve when you say {this}?"
@stated "What could we give you that would make the need for {this} irrelevant?"
@stated "If we had an alternative to {this} which achieved the end result by other means, would that be of interest?"
@stated "What was the original motivation that led to {this}?"
* "Etc."

(The questions are expressed in the MyCreativity language)

In Part 2 of this article we add more details