Innovation Wars and TRIZ – Who’s Winning?

Editor’s Note: This post is a featured guest post by one of our IAI University Partners, Dr. Ellen Domb from the PQR Group.

Credit: Herzschlag /

Stop the Innovation Wars is the attention-getting title of a Harvard Business Review article published last year, attempting to generate controversy in the business world. The article is written by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, both on the faculty at Dartmouth, and co-authors of a new book on innovation titled “The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge,” which was published in late 2010. (See original article at the Harvard Business Review)

What is the Innovation War?

It is the battle between corporate operations groups, responsible for ongoing operations and support of existing products and services, and the teams formed for new initiatives, usually given names like innovation team.

The authors’ description of the powerful, extremely negative reactions to the idea of creating an innovation team with special responsibility for a new strategy and how it gave rise to their research is fascinating, but familiar to practitioners of Innovation Management of all stripes, and especially to the deep research background of TRIZ (Editor note: What is TRIZ? One of the most powerful innovation toolkits you’ve never heard of… until now).

What’s in a name?

The authors rename the operations groups the Performance Engine of the company, and prescribe a partnership modality, in which the Performance Engine partners with dedicated project teams tasked with innovation projects.

They present an interesting series of case studies:

  1. BMW’s regenerative braking team,
  2. West’s (the legal publishing branch of Thomas Reuters) creation of database products,
  3. Lucent’s service businesses, and
  4. WD-40’s new dispenser to demonstrate the universality of their proposed method as applied in a product, a service, and a component part.

Step one of the partnership process involves dividing the work between the Performance Engine and the dedicated project team.

One insight that I found quite useful was that it is not just the work to be done and the skills of the people that should be assessed, but also the past working relationships of those people.

If they have always worked in a hierarchical relationship, they may not be able to work in a flat organization (Editor note: Enterprise 2.0 issues – can’t flatten an organization with lumps of non-collaborative employees and managers in the mix).

If they have always worked on projects that have well-defined deliverables, they may not be able to work in an exploratory environment (Editor note: Agile anyone? [outside of software development, it’s a mindset I see in successful Enterprise 2.0 work]).

And, of course, vice versa: one example showed how people who had typically worked very independently, or with a small technical support staff, were not well-suited to working in a large, structured team with complex, interdependent roles (Editor note: Organizations that are immune to the innovation virus – all too common).

The new organization will also need new metrics of success, new compensation/reward systems, and its own unique culture.

Organizational Change – Who Owns It?

Trimble and Govindarajan task management with creating these elements, but I’ve seen management fail more often than it succeeds as creating a specific culture – – it seems that the best that management can do is be sure that the metrics and reward systems are not contrary to the desired cultural elements. (Editor note: Organizational Network Analysis and Knowledge Management provide both targeting and change management tools to find the best/worst areas of culture to explore or avoid, for the time being)

For a short article, they did a good job at illustrating the kinds of problems that will occur in this partnership.

TRIZ and Business Management

TRIZ practitioners will recognize the physical contradictions in the situations of loose vs. tight management, team vs. individual metrics, and the technical (trade-off) contradictions in the schedule vs. completeness and new technology vs. traditional methods and new suppliers’ creativity vs. traditional suppliers’ reliability, etc.

Disappointingly, the authors did not use any of the insights available from business applications of TRIZ to propose solutions to these contradictions.

Their solutions to the problems of innovation are remarkably un-innovative.

Equally disappointing, they do not present any data or case studies showing that their proposed method works.

Case studies from which the method was derived are interesting, but obviously are available because they were successful for those companies in those circumstances.

The test should be to apply the method to new situations and evaluate its effectiveness, and iterated the method based on both failures and successes. I am particularly dubious about the effectiveness of changing the names of the operations and innovation teams as a key success factor!

Readers are invited to contribute their case studies and observations, and particularly any methods they have found effective in companies that use TRIZ in their innovation toolkit.

– end article –

Where are you in your TRIZ Education?

  • Is your innovation toolkit non-existent?
  • Have you struggled with how to connect the theory of TRIZ, to the application of TRIZ in your organization?
  • Do you need a “language of innovation” to unify your employees – allowing both incremental and radical innovation?

Take advantage of our 5-Hour Online (+ 60 minutes of instructor feedback) and On-demand eLearning course, “Applied Innovation with TRIZ” created in partnership with Ellen Domb from the PQR Group and Information Architected on our new learning platform, IAI University.

“Ellen is one of the world leading teachers in TRIZ. Her teachings will not only educate, but also entertain you. She is the first of all the TRIZ teachers who really researches in how to teach TRIZ the best way. But what I appreciate the most, are here really quick responses whenever I have a TRIZ-related question. And this is independent from the place she is staying at around the world.” – Robert Adunka, Innovation Coach, Siemens AG

The “Applied Innovation with TRIZ” course has five modules and includes approximately 60 minutes of class/homework feedback from Dr. Domb, to discuss the course and the application of TRIZ to your own work.

Register now for “Applied Innovation with TRIZ

Module 1: Introduction to TRIZ, Ideality and the Ideal Final Result

  • History and Development of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving
  • History of TRIZ
  • Defining Ideality
  • Ideality and IFR
  • Ideal Final Results: Examples
  • Applying Ideality
  • Using Resources

Module 2: Using Resources

  • Using Resources
  • Accelerating Innovation by Using Resources
  • Example of Real-Time Traffic Information
  • Examples of Using Customers as Resources
  • Recognizing Energy Sources
  • Checking Your Understanding – Using Resources

Module 3: Eliminating Trade-offs

  • Eliminating Trade-offs
  • How to Recognize a Trade-off
  • How to Look for Assumptions That Cause Trade-offs
  • How to Use the Contradiction Matrix and the 40 Principles to Eliminate Trade-offs

Module 4: Examples of the 40 Principles From Many Disciplines

  • The 40 Principles
  • How to Use the 40 Principles
  • Examples from Business, Technology, Services and Society

Module 5: Eliminating Inherent Contradictions and Integrating the Tools of TRIZ

  • Identifying Inherent Contradictions
  • Resolving Inherent Contradictions
  • Integrating the Tools of TRIZ

Register now for “Applied Innovation with TRIZ

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