What does Innovation beyond BS mean to you? I coined the phrase in despair when yet another team thought a more effective BRAIN STORMING (BS) method was all they needed to achieve innovation.
Predictably they had sorted out some well-known problem solving Baby Steps (BS) into a ‘Innovation framework’ and they hoped to make their names by rolling out (inflicting?) this on their entire corporate population. They were so excited and called themselves innovation specialists on the basis of a few derivative and simplistic techniques - sadly another meaning of BS came to mind.
Baby Steps are important, especially if they enshrine important logic and are simple and memorable, like SWAT, SCAMPER and 5 Why’s. Fundamental concepts are essential first steps, but that’s all they are and once we have mastered them we need to move onwards and upwards. Just as in mathematics learning to add, subtract, multiply and divide are critical baby steps but they are only the beginning of an exciting journey.
Much human resource and opportunity is squandered on innovation by never getting beyond the infant school basics. This is wasteful and unnecessary when toolkits like TRIZ lead us to everything humankind knows about achieving meaningful innovation, and show us how to learn and apply its straightforward processes.
Anything that goes beyond Baby Steps in innovation is exciting. Popular response to new ideas like Business NOISE (which slows us all down) or finding success in TIPPING POINTS are wonderfully easy to grasp and sell millions of books. But like most diet books their fundamental principles perhaps can be covered in one page, and we do not always need a fat book to educate us. I often thought that TIPPING points may be explained by logarithmic axes on graphs.
One of the best communicators for making the important easy to understand is the mathematician Hannah Fry, who in the Lunch with the FT on 31st July 2021 explained how the dangers of the current spread of COVID could be made clear:
Her favourite example is of an imaginary lily pad on a pond doubling its area every day. It starts growing in one minuscule corner and covers the whole surface of the pond after a month. By day 20, the lily pad is still almost invisible. By day 28, it covers a quarter of the pond, by day 29 it covers half, and by day 30 it covers it all. It is a similar story with the hospitalisation numbers during the latest upsurge in the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, she suggests. “Sure, they’re at a much lower level than they were in January but they are on this trajectory. We’re at day two, day three of this lily pad and the pattern exists.”
Such simple truths, well explained can help us all solve problems together and stimulate (rather than fog) our brain power, intelligence and ability to locate the best answers. So whatever BS means to you I hope you if like Brain Storming you recognise that it is the first important baby step. BS is universal, and it works. But, in real ‘get it right every time important problem solving’ we need to move beyond the random, easy, intuitive beginnings. When BS fails (as it does at least half the time) you need to know about the real, proven, problem solving processes like TRIZ.
Brain Storming will always be the first great step – sometimes it finds answers and occasionally it delivers all the steps of genius thinking in a flash. When this doesn’t happen, we can slow down all the genius steps we have covered intuitively and instantly and get the best solutions step by step, systematically and logically, accessing our brain power and experience. It may take a few days to get the solutions we need, and is not as memorable as that great lightning moment, but it is guaranteed, an every-time, whenever we want on demand route to the best answers.
For teams solving hard problems together is exciting, effective and bonding, which is one of the unexpected benefits of TRIZ – Happy Teams travel far beyond BS.