The design and operation of corporate innovation programs still frustrates many organizations. The balance of taking care of existing business and manufacturing issues vs. the need to identify new areas for growth and expansion is one that few organizations manage well. Imbedded within the TRIZ problem solving methods are four very powerful tools known as separation principles. For physical problems or organizational problems, they can be quickly applied to generate new ideas. There are four of these principles: (1) separation in time, (2) space, (3) between parts and the whole, and (4) separation upon condition.
If we apply these principles, in turn, to the conflict of ongoing business vs. innovation and new business, we might come up with the following ideas:
- Separation in time: Set aside a specific time for discussion of only new, unrelated to current business activities.
- Separation in space: Set aside a specific room where only new business ideas can be discussed.
- Separation between parts and the whole: Set up a totally separate group to pursue new activities which reports to a senior manager with direct accountability for generating "new to the company" business.
- Separation upon condition: Hold a simulated exercise triggered by a real or imagined condition (i.e. the issuance of a new patent, the announcement of a competitive merger, etc.). Use this situation, real or imagined, to generate ideas relating to what the organization might do.
To illustrate simply how TRIZ separation principles can be applied to a real world problem, pretend that you are traffic engineer or highway designer and have to deal with the problem of two potential intersecting highways which cannot have traffic on them at the exact same time.
If we separate in time, we use controlled access via stop light or hand signals from a traffic cop, or allow access in certain directions only at certain times. If we separate in space, we may have controlled access or merge lanes, or have an underpass or overpass.
Separation upon Condition Principle
In another example, the new Crayola® product for kids coloring uses a special crayon and paper design to create a product which only allows writing on the special paper one must buy from Crayola®. The crayons will not write on walls!
Crayola® is copyright of Binney & Smith.
Ideality and Resource Principles
A standard industry corrosion test is to take samples, for which the corrosion rate needs to be measured, and immerse them in the corrosive solution and weigh the samples before and after. These weight differences are then converted, through the knowledge of the geometry of the sample, into a mils/year corrosion rate.
Consider the case of a sample test that must be run for which there is a high corrosion rate, not only for the sample, but for the traditionally used container. The typical engineering approach would be to make the holding container out of an expensive, totally corrosion resistant material such as gold or platinum. If we consider some of the basic TRIZ concepts of ideality and resources, we would first ask an ideality question such as: "How can the container perform its function without existing"?
A visual picture of the sample with a blob of corrosive media around it would be visualized. We all know this isn't practical, but it gets our brain started in a new, focused direction. Next, we ask, "How can I approach the ideal state with the resources I have in the system?" A review of this system would suggest we have the sample itself, its material properties, and its geometric properties, including surface/surface area, volume, etc.
We begin to recognize that the internal volume of the sample is an unused resource, and since it is not serving any other function, we can simply cut out a section of the sample and put the corrosive medium INSIDE the sample. We then measure the corrosion in exactly the same way we did before. We have avoided the expense of new materials and made the measuring technique more robust. This example illustrates both the ideality and resource principles of the TRIZ problem-solving process.