Does TRIZ change people?

TRIZ Future 2012, Lisbon, Portugal:  Lilly Haines-Gadd evaluates the impact of TRIZ training within an organisation, (based on her MSc research.) 

Introduction

Innovation is increasingly considered a key component of organisations’ success (Ford & Gioia, 2000), and research has shown that innovating firms grow faster and experience 4 times the sales growth of non-innovating firms (Roper et al., 2008).

Organisations are recognising that in order to maintain a competitive edge they need innovative employees and many are looking to training as one way of improving their innovative thinking abilities (Clapham, 2003), working on the basis that most employees are capable of being creative at work (Farr, 1990; Weisberg, 1986), and if they are not, it is due to lack of skills or motivation (Steinmetz, 1968).

WHAT IS INNOVATIVE BEHAVIOUR?

Innovative behaviour involves both the generation of creative ideas and their implementation for organisational benefit (Amabile, 1988,1996; West & Farr, 1990).

Creative ideas are defined as both novel and useful (Amabile,1983; Mumford & Gustafson, 1988; Sternberg & Lubart, 1991,1995,1996; Ochse,1990). While the literature often uses the terms “creativity”, “innovation” and “creative problem solving” as synonymous, creativity can be understood as a crucial part of the innovation process (Anderson et al.,2004): a two-stage process where creativity dominates in the first stage, followed by implementation (West, 2002). 

Creativity is therefore a necessary but not sufficient condition for innovation at work (Amabile, 1996).  Successfully innovative individuals must therefore be able to generate creative ideas and then implement them (Birdi, 2007).

Egyptians building pyramids - did they use Innovative behaviour?

How do we increase innovative behaviour? The impact of training

Training tends to focus on improving abilities in the first stage of innovation process - generating creative ideas - as ideation is often the part of the creative process that individuals find the most difficult (Basadur et al.,1982).

Of the recent meta-analyses into the impact of training, most have criticised current research as relying too heavily on lab-based research, more research is therefore needed within organisations, to understand whether the positive results of creativity training found in experimental studies can be replicated in the workplace. Very little research has investigated the mechanisms which underlie creative ability (Runco, 2004) or seek to explain why individual and contextual factors influence an individual’s creativity (Choi, 2004). 

Effective evaluation of the impact of training in the workplace should be theoretically driven; we should understand the mechanisms by which the training changes an employee (Birdi, 2005, 2007).

Birdi et al. (2010) studied the impact of TRIZ training within an engineering company. TRIZ Does TRIZ change people - TRIZ Futures 2012 presentation paper Lilly Haines-Gadd(Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch = Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) is a toolkit and problem solving process developed in the former Soviet Union. The TRIZ community analysed the most inventive patents and developed a series of tools for understanding and solving problems based on analogous thinking: there are heuristics for modelling problems conceptually in order to access innovative solutions, and tools for stimulating creative thinking (Altshuller & Altov, 1996). While training in TRIZ is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, very little research has been conducted into its impact (Birdi et al. 2010). 

EVALUATING TRAINING: HOW DOES TRAINING WORK? INFLUENCES ON IDEA GENERATION

Training can improve an individual’s ability to think creatively by providing them with methods or heuristics for generating more ideas (Amabile, 1983; Clegg et al, 2002; Scott et al, 2004b; Hennessey & Amabile, 2010); i.e. improving their creative thinking skills.

However for training to be most effective, it must also involve changes in intrinsic motivation to innovate (an interest and involvement in the work, driven by curiosity and enjoyment (Amabile, 1983)), as this have been shown to be critical for individual creativity at work (e.g. Amabile, 1983,1988,1996; Sternberg & Lubart, 1996) and for long-term behavioural change following training (Basadur et al, 1982). Nickerson (1999) suggested that affective factors such as motivation were more important than domain-specific knowledge or creativity-relevant skills.

TRIZ trainer, facilitator and ideas - why the trainer is important

Nickerson (1999) also suggested that beliefs about creative ability are critical: if people believe that creativity can be enhanced through learning, they are more likely to be motivated in and following training. Therefore investigating individual’s beliefs about their creative abilities is also important, as they may underlie and impact on their motivation.

Numerous studies report the positive association between creative self-efficacy and innovative behaviour (Axtell et al, 2000; Farr & Ford, 1990; Parker et al, 2006; Patterson et al, 2009; Tierney & Farmer, 2002, 2004; and creativity (Beghetto, 2006; Ford, 1996; Bandura, 1997; Phelan, 2001). Self-efficacy is conceptually distinct from motivation to innovate, as it incorporates elements of confidence, courage (Patterson et al., 2009) and one’s perceived ability for conducting a specific task (Bandura, 1997). Self-efficacy can mediate the relationship between motivation and performance (Bandura, 1982). Choi (2004) found that self-efficacy mediated creative ability, but it may also mediate motivation to innovate: this has not yet been investigated.

Few studies have investigated the impact of training on creative self-efficacy, but there is evidence that training can increase levels of creative self-efficacy (Robbins & Kegley, 2010; Mathisen & Bronnick, 2009; Locke et al., 1984; Gist, 1989). 

Statement of Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1: Individuals who have been trained will show higher levels of innovative behaviour at work.

Birdi et al’s (2010) suggested that training improved innovative behaviour by improving cognitive (creative thinking skills) and affective factors (motivation to innovate). TRIZ trainees should therefore show higher levels of both of these factors, and they should be associated with higher levels of innovative behaviour at work. Creative self-efficacy may also be improved by training and be associated with higher levels of idea generation.

Hypothesis 2:  Individuals who have been TRIZ trained will show higher levels of creative thinking skills, motivation to innovate and creative self-efficacy.

Hypothesis 3:  Higher levels of creative thinking skills, motivation to innovate and creative self-efficacy will be associated with higher levels of idea generation.

Hypothesis 4:  Creative self-efficacy will mediate the impact of creative thinking skills and motivation to innovate on idea generation.

One important way that this sample varied from Birdi et al.’s (2010) original sample is that the training programme was substantially different. In Birdi et al.’s (2010) sample, the trainees had all attended a single day of training. In this sample, three levels of training programme were available: there may be different levels of change in cognitive and affective factors as a consequence of amount of training completed. This may also effect training satisfaction and transfer. 

Hypothesis 5:  The more training attended, the higher the levels of creative thinking skills, motivation to innovate, creative self-efficacy, training satisfaction and transfer. 


Methodology

Organisational Context

The study was conducted at the UK site of an international fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company. TRIZ training was offered to all 60 members of the Product Futures department. 

However the response to the training so far was mixed, and it was uncertain how useful TRIZ had been and how much it was being used. 

Therefore the company was keen to undertake evaluation in order to understand whether TRIZ training had improved individual’s creative behaviour at work and resulted in more innovative ideas being implemented.


TRIZ problem solving for Royal Mail or giant corporations? both

Procedure

The Product Futures department was compared to Applied Research, a similar department which hadn’t received any TRIZ training.. A questionnaire was sent to 122 employees, all 60 members of the Product Futures department and all 62 members of Applied Research. 67 responses were collected – a 55% response rate – with no significant difference in response rate between departments.

Measures

Innovative Behaviour Measures:

Idea Suggestion

Respondents were asked how much over the last 3 months they had suggested ideas to others in 5 relevant areas of work Responses were scored on a five-point scale item from 1=to a very great extent to 5=not at all, and were averaged to provide a single score (alpha=.76).

Idea Implementation

Respondents were asked how much over the last 3 months their ideas had been implemented in the same 5 areas as above. Responses were scored on a five-point scale item from 1=to a very great extent to 5=not at all, and averaged to provide a single score (alpha=.78).

Patent Submissions

Respondents were asked how many patents they had submitted in 2010.

Creativity Training Measures

Respondents were asked whether they had participated in any training, if so, how many months ago, and to what level (Level 1, 2 or 3). Respondents completed 19 measures of training satisfaction, averaged to provide a single score (alpha=.97). Respondents indicated how much they have consciously used TRIZ since attending training as a measure of training transfer.  Responses were scored on a five-point scale from 1=Very frequently to 5=Not at all. Participants were also asked “why” to capture reasons for use or non-use of TRIZ, and asked to describe an example of where TRIZ had been applied to their work.

Individual Measures

Respondents rated their self-reported creative thinking skills on a 7-item measure. Responses were scored on a five-point scale from 1=highly skilled (i.e. can coach others in this) to 5=not skilled at all, and averaged to form a single score (alpha=.90).

Motivation to innovate was measured using a 4-item measure.  Items were scored on a five-point scale from 1=Strongly agree to 5=strongly disagree, and averaged to form a single score (alpha=.80).

Creative self-efficacy was measured using Tierney & Farmer’s (2002) 3-item measure. Items were scored on a five-point scale from 1=Strongly agree to 5=strongly disagree, and averaged to form a single score (alpha=.87).


Read on from page 5 of the presentation paper  (PDF)  >>


Abstract 

The author conducted research into the impact of TRIZ training within a global FMCG organisation, repeating the research of Birdi et al (2010) [1], which was conducted within a global engineering company. This research is based on Birdi et al's (2010) [1] model, which suggests that different individual and contextual factors are required for different parts of the innovation process (idea generation, followed by implementation). This study has highlighted potential mechanisms that underlie creative behaviour: namely, cognitive factors (creative thinking skills), and affective factors (motivation to innovate and creative self-efficacy ; and developed further a method of measuring them. 

The questionnaire (n=122) found that Birdi et al.’s (2010) [1] suggested mechanism of how TRIZ training improves idea generation - by improving levels of cognitive and affective factors - was partially supported. Trainees reported higher levels of creative self-efficacy, motivation to innovate, idea generation and patent submissions than non-trainees: while creative thinking skills were shown to be associated with higher levels of idea generation, no difference was found comparing trainees to non-trainees. Birdi et al. (2010) [1] predicted environmental support for innovation would influence idea generation and implementation, which was not supported, however as predicted, some of the measures of job-relevant capabilities were better predictors for idea implementation than training. 

Different levels of impact were found according to how much training the participants had received. This study therefore suggests some of the mechanisms by which TRIZ improves innovative behaviour at work: by providing an understanding of the functional changes as a result of training, better evaluation can be conducted by measuring individual's changes in cognitive and affective factors, providing a more rigorous measure of the impact of TRIZ training. The implications for practitioners in delivering the most effective TRIZ training are discussed (in terms of focus, structure and learning outcomes), as well as the limitations of TRIZ training and the other factors organisations need to consider in order to increase their innovative output. 

This research contributes to the literature by being one of the few evaluations of innovation training , which is theoretically driven, conducted within an organisation, and repeats past work using the same training content (TRIZ). The research was conducted as part of the author's MSc in Occupational Psychology, and while she is a TRIZ trainer and practitioner herself, this research was conducted at an organisation which had received training in TRIZ from another consultancy. 

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Report prepared by:

Lilly Haines-Gadd
Oxford Creativity

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