Using TRIZ to Mobilise the Mothership for Gender Equality

Posted by Karen Gadd on 9 Apr 2019
Karen Gadd
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Gender equality matters and I hoped that I knew what to do when asked to help answer to the question ‘Why is it so hard to get more women in IT?’. All I had to do was Trust TRIZ* and work with people who have the right, relevant knowledge but no clear answers yet.

I am part of a dedicated team who been running TRIZ workshops for 20 years. But despite its amazing success rate I have never before addressed this kind of important issue with TRIZ supreme logic, and, as a 1970’s feminist (i.e.hardliner), I should have known better.

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The IT Services of one of our top Universities wanted to redress the imbalance of low female representation in areas including infrastructure and software development. I was sure we could not only get good solutions, but they would immediately be able to implement them.

Pretty young lady taking a decision with scale above her head

We all know that increasing diversity is not only desirable from a moral point of view, but necessary for greater productivity for everyone and needs action now.

As always TRIZ delivered – highlighting the best ways forward to the challenge of ‘How to Create a more diverse and innovative workforce in IT Services’ or simply ‘how to attract the right talent into the right IT jobs’. There is a strong likelihood that much of the absent /missing talent for IT might come from women more than men.

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In just 4 hours our balanced group of 8 women and 8 men (from many areas including IT, HR, Recruitment and communications) uncovered 74 ways forward. With 45 easy solutions / prompts we could start immediately to help the situation and with another 21 we could start soon, with only a small number needing more work.

Portrait of a happy elegant woman showing her biceps on gray background

Although the workshop was highly structured it was energetic, productive and fun and everyone contributed as we logically moved step by step. From defining what we need (with TRIZ IDEAL), mapping the context (Time & Scale in 9 Boxes) and finding answers (TRIZ TRIGGERS). We finished by classifying the many generated solutions, to give us next steps with a planish for achieving real results.

It was an amazing group. On average the women present were older (wiser?) than the men but they all shared fierce intelligence and determination to tackle issues like inequality. Half were trying something new for the first time making them boldly innovative, using the TRIZ tools which seem to work best on clever people so perhaps a University is the right setting for this challenge.

When we finished a female TRIZ novice announced “TRIZ is the Mothership of Toolkits to everything else - be it Lean, Systems Thinking, Six Sigma or RCA. Other tools all have some of its logic but TRIZ has it all and pulls them together and gives them the essentials they all lack – innovation and problem solving”

Mountain and foothills 2-1

Another male novice said “ I have never enjoyed new learning, application and production of brilliant practical results in one session before – this is the best toolkit I have ever experienced”.

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Considering how nervous I was before this session I was thrilled at the results and reactions. But I should have remembered that in 20 years our Oxford TRIZ team have never seen TRIZ fail on a huge range of challenges – and what we hope we deliver is enhanced efficiency, higher productivity and boosted brainpower to people all engaged in critical work.

*Systematic and structured TRIZ (Russian acronym = Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) helps us think clearly to understand and solve problems and generate innovative ideas. Oxford TRIZ is a simple and logical version which maintains TRIZ rigour but is very accessible and famous for its fast workshops and for getting teams to work well together.

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