Coping: Millennial’s Book 3: [keyword: Invent]

(book title then article begins if graphics are down)

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Reader Note: If you are just catching on, each Thursday we’re are doing a chapter each week of a book I’m writing for Millennials – teaching the insights that will (hopefully!) allow them to live long and prosper – and be around to clean up after us Old People who made a mess of getting civilization this far.

There are three sections to each chapter. Something you can read to children, a general reader part, and the advanced/business section.

We pick up with morning like so…

We established in the first chapter that there is RECIPE for everything we do.

Chapter 2 involves understanding (and owning) PROCESSES.

Today we begin to discover the process of Invention which gives us unlimited power to Create.


For Children

The Baker’s Sweet Discovery: A Tale of Invention

Once upon a time, in a Land far away, a baker discovered the secrets of Recipes and Processes and thus was quickly promoted to Royal Baker for the King.

Tom, as he was known, baked the lightest, moistest-centered, perfectly crusted white bread every seen.

The King had him baking it every day and he’d have Tom’s breads with at least two of his daily meals.

But finally, one year after Tom started baking his perfect bread, the King became dissatisfied and called Tom to the Royal Chambers.

“Tom! I love your bread and don’t get me wrong as I tell you this,” the King thundered “But I want you to make me something new…a different kind of bread because the royal palate has grown tired of your all-too-perfect bread.”

Sire,” replied Tom “I am not sure how to go about making a different kind of bread. True, there are many other Recipes and several variations of the baking Process we could try, but it could be unpredictable at best. I would fear for my King’s satisfaction should a bring him bread that did not please him…”

“Hmmm,” the King began to think out loud. “Perhaps I should call the Royal Consultant. Summon him!”

Presently, an old Beechcraft airplane touched down just outside the walls of the Castle and a portly man in his late 60’s walked into the King’s Court.

“You rang, your Highness?”

“We have a problem, Royal Consultant: We want to bake a new bread, but we don’t know how to make a better bread. We have other Recipes and we have seen other Processes than the one Tom uses for his all-too-perfect bread. But we don’t know which way to go on this. Can you help?”

“Indeed, I can,” replied the Consultant. “Your Highness has never fully taken control of his Life because he has never before had to grid it out. Everything in Life has its place…So let’s make up a grid of the Royal Palate…this will tell us what we need to know for the Royal Baker.”

“Alright, what must I do?” the King wondered.

“I will ask you some questions and you will give me answers. And presently the solution will present itself.”

“I’m not sure,” said the skeptical King. “But ask away…”

“To begin, do you like small, medium, or large loaves of bread?”

“Small,” replied the King.
“Do you like meats, cheeses, or fruits better, your Highness?”

“Well, at the moment I think I’d have to go with fruits.”

Excellent! What is your favorite fruit?”

“Raisins at the moment.”

“Ah ha! Your Highness has just told the Royal Baker what to make! He will make his all-too-perfect bread, but he will add several handfuls of raisins to the mix just before baking. I think Tom should call this new Invention Raisin Bread.”

The King looked disappointed. He stroked his beard for several minutes before turning again to the Royal Consultant. “I am troubled, Consultant. Why is Invention of new things so easy for you and so hard for us? This answer came to you in seconds yet the problem had us perplexed. How do you do it?”

“Does your Lordship remember the game of tic-tack-toe?”

“Of course.”

“Well that’s how I solved your problem. You like bread, so I put an X all the way down one side of the game grid. Then I asked for the middle column the question about meats, cheeses, or fruits. When you, sire, said Fruits, I put an X on that line. Now all I needed was to find out which fruit you liked best. I had selected three of them.”

“What would have happened if I said I liked meats best?”

“Far away in the Caribbean, there is a pastry with meat inside it. It has ginger and lots of spices in it and they are delicious. I had ideas for every one of the boxes on that game grid. It was just a matter of figuring out which one you wanted first…”

The King nodded his head in agreement.

Now that he knew all he would need would be the tic-tac-toe grid ( # ) many of his decisions would become much easier.

The next day, Tom made bread with raisins in it for the first time.

It was such a success that it is still in stores all over the world today.


For General Readers

Finally, some exciting zhit now as we explore the first of two Life-changing matrices. These will literally change your whole view of Reality.

Matrices?

It is the plural of the word “Matrix” but not quite with Neo. The accepted definition is “an environment or material in which something develops…”

While the word matrix is often used in things like advertising (a media matrix/ad buy) or in bioscience (growth matrix), for our purposes of learning we will keep it simple with a surveryor’s mapping tools.

No theodelyte needed: Just simple Lat/Lon grid lines on a map are all that’s need. Latitude and Longitude describe a unique place on the surface of the Earth.

We can apply this “gridding” technique to virtually everything we think. To illustrate the point, consider the following matrix which we will use to describe a product in the physical world.

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The process of Education does a miserable job of teaching this stuff – talking around the evolution, development, and use of matrix-thinking skills.

So let’s define something with our new-found matrix.

We will begin by calling the horizontal columns (A…n…) to a class. In our made-up on-the-fly example we will call this “Materials.”

The rows (1…n…) will be a class we will call “Dimensions.”

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Notice that we have started to describe attributes of what seems like two items. One is tiny – and made of steel. The other is Medium-sized and made of Wood.

I know there are lots of things in the world that would fit this matrix, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say you and I have opened up a The UrbanSurvival.com Custom Table Shop.

As we sit in our shop, a customer comes in.

Hey! You two wise-guys! I need a unique table.”

“No problem, squire. Just step over to our Table Design Matrix and we’ll fix you right up. We’ve been looking as some new designs include a Gigantic Wood Table and a Small Polystyrene Table. They’re in yellow…”

No, show me where something for the Outdoors out of PVC would fit…”

“Roger-dodger:”

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The prospective customer table selection is shown in red and he seems well-satisfied.

So are we: Well-dressed and all, we ought to be able to make a fortune on this guy.

Matrices are wonderful thinking tools. They make the process of invention wonderfully EASY.

The Russians are way ahead of the U.S. because of a system they evolved called TRIZ.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about TRIZ…

teoriya resheniya izobretatelskikh zadach, literally: “theory of the resolution of invention-related tasks”) is “a problem-solving, analysis and forecasting tool derived from the study of patterns of invention in the global patent literature”. It was developed by the Soviet inventor and science-fiction author Genrich Altshuller (1926-1998) and his colleagues, beginning in 1946. In English the name is typically rendered as “the theory of inventive problem solving”, and occasionally goes by the English acronym TIPS.

(Theory of Inventive Problem Solving –G)

Following Altshuller’s insight, the theory developed on a foundation of extensive research covering hundreds of thousands of inventions across many different fields to produce a theory which defines generalizable patterns in the nature of inventive solutions and the distinguishing characteristics of the problems that these inventions have overcome.

An important part of the theory has been devoted to revealing patterns of evolution and one of the objectives which has been pursued by leading practitioners of TRIZ has been the development of an algorithmic approach to the invention of new systems, and to the refinement of existing ones.

TRIZ includes a practical methodology, tool sets, a knowledge base, and model-based technology for generating innovative solutions for problem solving. It is intended[by whom?] for application in problem formulation, system analysis, failure analysis, and patterns of system evolution. There is a general similarity of purposes and methods with the field of pattern language, a cross discipline practice for explicitly describing and sharing holistic patterns of design.

The research has produced three primary findings:

· problems and solutions are repeated across industries and sciences

· patterns of technical evolution are also repeated across industries and sciences

· the innovations used scientific effects outside the field in which they were developed

TRIZ practitioners apply all these findings in order to create and to improve products, services, and systems.”

One of the best books available on TRIZ is “And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared.”

As originally laid out by Altschuller, there were 39 possible solutions to problems. Among them?

You can heat something, make it bigger, smaller, rounder or less round, change materials, form-factor, power source, finish, thickness….and on and on it went.

Another important aspect of TRIZ is to learn to look at problems as “contradictions” to be resolved.

“Altshuller has shown that at the heart of some inventive problems lie contradictions (one of the basic TRIZ concepts) between two or more elements, such as, “If we want more acceleration, we need a larger engine; but that will increase the cost of the car,” that is, more of something desirable also brings more of something less desirable, or less of something else also desirable.

These are called technical contradictions by Altshuller. He also defined so-called physical or inherent contradictions: More of one thing and less of the same thing may both be desired in the same system. For instance, a higher temperature may be needed to melt a compound more rapidly, but a lower temperature may be needed to achieve a homogeneous mixture.

An inventive situation which challenges us to be inventive, might involve several such contradictions. Conventional solutions typically “trade” one contradictory parameter for another; no special inventiveness is needed for that. Rather, the inventor would develop a creative approach for resolving the contradiction, such as inventing an engine that produces more acceleration without increasing the cost of the engine.”

In short, TRIZ is the recipe book for invention.

As I completed my MBA, it became apparent in discussions with various colleagues that the subject of TRIZ – this structured and disciplined way to invent solutions to problems – was viewed as somewhat arcane and definitely not dinner table conversation, yet you could see small parts of it in business discussions. The Japanese manufacturing miracle of the 1980-1990 period popularized “gai zin”, the mindset that said success could be had by making something smaller, cheaper, and faster. Yet the larger notion of structured thinking doesn’t seem to be widely held.

After years of observations, I have come to believe, that most people don’t have a conscious worldview that can consistently accommodate both a religious/ethical value system and concurrently embrace scientific methods. It would be nice if such a belief system was compact, easily teachable, and always applicable in every situation life presents.

Instead, in my observations, people develop a hodge-podge of preconceived notions about “how life works” and then go about living the next 1 to 99 years of life in a “trial and error mode” hoping to see how closely the real world conforms to inconsistent expectations that were usually not our own to begin with. They are seldom disappointed. Life can feel pretty random.

Expectations are placed in our heads from birth by any number of sources. It may be the instruction set programmed in by our parents, our peers in social situations like school, the pastor’s Sunday sermon, or just the constant barrage of imagery that comes from modern media.

Resolving all of the implied conflicts (problems) of life can last a lifetime. But the methodical approach (gridding as in tic-tac-toe or using a method like TRIZ) helps us remain focused on the search for the best possible answer. It also (with a notebook) helps us to avoid doing the same “work” several times over.


For Advanced Readers

Systems of Invention (our simply matrix) or the TRIZ/TIPS models are generally not used by senior management.

Two reasons for this: One is that senior managers often don’t have the technical skills to make fine/granular product adjustments. Second is they don’t have time. The function of management is to plan, control, and direct the efforts of others to maximum effect.

So by default, at the Senior Manager level, we really resort to a limited number of options.

We can ADD, SUBTRACT, or CHANGE the way things have been done before. With each course chosen, a risk-reward calculation is triggered. So we should examine this process.

Ingredients are added, deleted or changed through substitution.

Let’s begin with how a business is made more competitive through the addition of a new ingredient. Consider these clear-cut marketing examples.

Addition Example: Add a Mouse to the Recipe

In the early days of computing, all computers circa 1983 were using the standard “qwerty” keyboard for input. The earliest computers were the Commodores, the TRS-80’s from Radio Shack, and even some early IBM and Compaq PC’s.

If you go back to your earliest computer experiences, if you can remember a business world without PC’s, you’ll recall that mice didn’t invade the PC world until the mid to late 1980’s.

Prior to this time the mouse, invented as a pointing device for computers at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, was widely adopted only by Apple.

The mouse, and the “point and click” approach to computer menus, was the critical added ingredient that built the foundation of Apple Computer.

Later, recognizing the high value of the ingredient, general computing fell in love with the mouse.

Through a series of legal actions, principally involving Microsoft’s Windows™ operating systems, the mouse has become a “standard ingredient” in the computing world and is now a standard item on virtually all computers.

This is just one example of how adding a new feature to a product increases acceptance in the marketplace. There are hundreds of other examples.

When I think about “added ingredients” in the business equation, I think about the old Arctic Circle drive-in chain. Their french-fries were just about the same as all others when I was living on them in 1968. But the added ingredient was their so-called “Secret Sauce”. While it tasted a lot like Miracle Whip and catsup, it was the added ingredient that gained my loyalty as a customer.

I think you can see, from the marketing perspective, that an added ingredient is a key method of product differentiation in the marketplace.

As long as I’m confessing the sins of my youth, let’s talk about deleting ingredients.

Subtraction Example: Less Tar and Nicotine

When the Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of cigarette smoking came out in the 1970’s, the tobacco industry responded by [partially] removing an ingredient in order to increase acceptance of a product that was under direct attack in the market.

Prior to the Report, people had been smoking a mix of unfiltered cigarettes, like Camel and Pall Mall and filtered brands like Winston and Marlboro.

After the report, a new generation of product was introduced and posited as “less bad for you” because the dangerous ingredients, tar and nicotine, had been [partially] removed.

What the tobacco industry did was only reducing them to an extent so that people could be led to believe, and therefore act (buy) as though, the ingredient had been removed.

Fine marketing, rotten health move.

Changing ingredients that make up a product is the third way or differentiating a product by ingredient changes.

You’ll find examples in all products, but here are a couple of obvious examples.

Change Example: Utilization of Burger Joints

For what seemed like the longest time, although in reality, it was only 30 years or so, hamburgers dominated the fast food business. Traditionally, they had opened around 10-11 AM and stayed open until usually 11 PM.

As corporations began acquiring chains, the drive to differentiate product in the market grew.

The leader in this area was McDonalds. They took the simple hamburger recipe and began changing out the standard hamburger to include other meats and combinations of ingredients.

They have been tremendously successful. But it wasn’t until the addition of breakfast operations in 1974, or so, that revenue began to hit its stride.

Substituting (changing) ingredients solved the marketing problem of low revenue in the early hours of the day. Here’s how: A sausage patty replaced the meat patty. A fried egg replaced the lettuce. The cheese was allowed to stay, but the bun was replaced with a muffin.

The result? The Sausage Egg McMuffin.

Not to be outdone, of course, Burger King changed out the bun from a biscuit to a croissant and gave the world the Sausage Croissandwich.

Changing out an ingredient does not always guarantee success. Sometimes, a change of ingredients backfires in a major way.

Change for the Worse: The “New” Coke

This is the quintessential example of how changing an ingredient sometimes doesn’t help.

The Coca-Cola Company launched a “new” flavor of Coke and it was a flop.

Most cola drinkers liked Coke just the way it was, so the old formula was relabeled as “Coca-Cola Classic” and statistically speaking, that’s what you buy today.

These examples suggest that marketing problems may be solved through adding, subtracting, or changing ingredients. But that doesn’t assure success. Test and measure to see what works.

Now, let’s see if we can make a general business “recipe” from these marketing experiences.

Walk with me through a typical small manufacturing business that is not making money. Try to see the business as a continuously running series of conveyor belts and mixers, just like you’d see in a cookie factory.

Customers and their orders come in the front door, and your goods or services go out the back door. Along the way, you’ve got a manufacturing area, and you probably have a finance department. Maybe there is an engineering department. Sales department up front.

Here’s the tough part.

A lot of managers have a tough time visualizing what needs to be added, subtracted from, or changed to make their business run more efficiently.

One of the easiest ways I have found is to start by ordering something from your own company. You should only find three major departments from ordering to shipping. These are sales, production, and shipping.

Accounting, Research & Development? Not in the flow.

Yes, in certain instances, you will have some custom engineering or set-up work done in the shop, but this is part of production and should be viewed as such.

As you go through any company, ask yourself “What’s happening in this department?”

Then – and this is the critical part – ask yourself “What can I add, subtract, or change, to improve how this operates from the customer standpoint?”

Here’s my greatly simplified list of department-by-department recipe changes that will make any business more profitable:

Sales Department:

· Add customers by adding sales leads.

· Subtract time. If you blind shop your company and it takes a week to get product information, you are to slow. Make it faster and you’ll make more sales.

· Change product materials. Ask your customers what they need to know in order to make a purchasing decision.

In a lot of companies, and especially in the engineering and technology disciplines, the “techies” have a way of over complicating sales materials. Remember that when people make a decision to purchase something, they are only buying a solution to a problem.

To the degree that you can define their problems, and show how you will solve it better than any of your competitors, you will be more successful.

In the Manufacturing Department:

· Add quality control. I can’t tell you how many small (Under $5 million/year in sales) companies I’ve seen where shoddy quality was the company’s downfall.

· Subtract high cost parts. Unless there is a genuine product performance issue associated with a high cost or tight tolerance part, use something less expensive.

· Change designs and work flows for maximum efficiency.

Go back and read the business books about Frederick Winslow Taylor in the previous chapter and how 22-pound shovels used to dramatically improve production at Bethlehem Steel.

In the Shipping Department:

· Add finished goods to inventory so you can always ship small amounts of product within minutes.

· Subtract finished goods if you have more than a few days of product on the shelf.

· Change shipping methods to get faster times to the customer at the least cost.

I often get asked about the other branches of a company – finance, new products, and so forth.

While these departments are important, they need to be viewed as input, process/output recipes in their own right, and should never interfere with the core business, which is selling making and shipping product.

Out of the flow, in R&D:

· Add customer-driven features that improve performance. Ask Sales and Marketing what would work.

· Subtract features that customers don’t care about and avoid “feature creep” like the plague. Again, ask Sales & Marketing.

· Change packaging periodically in line with customer desires.

In the Finance Department

· Add new ways for your customers to fund purchase of products. Are you using wire transfers? Bankcards? Third party loans? The most important thing a finance department can do is facilitating the customer decision to purchase a product, while assuring your company gets paid.

· Subtract meaningless paperwork. Make your credit aps simple and get all the information at once. Nothing makes for unhappy customers faster than “a bean counter” that stands in the way of sales.

· Change to the best accounting software you can get and learn to run reports so that finance can help all other departments achieve maximum profitability.

In short, if your company isn’t being “re-invented from the top down every single day” it is dying.

Visit www.tompeters.com and get back in the game. If you don’t know who Tom Peters and Bob Waterman are, you need to go back to school, or at least read more.   Please.

Next Thursday’s Chapter: [keyword: Flow]

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net

Comments

Coping: Millennial’s Book 3: [keyword: Invent] — 6 Comments

  1. Managing In A 5 Dimension Economy —
    Dr Grant Venerable, author….is another
    resource, sense you will enjoy this one…

    Much Light & LOVE……Ed

  2. “Arctic Circle drive-in chain. Their french-fries were just about the same as all others when I was living on them in 1968. But the added ingredient was their so-called “Secret Sauce”. While it tasted a lot like Miracle Whip and catsup”

    I used to love that place growing up in Wenatchee Valley. Don’t think it’s even around anymore.

  3. Circa 1985 I could do twice as much data entry as today, because the software was designed to facilitate entry without fingers leaving the keyboard (smart use of the tab and enter keys). Today I have to stop keying to “click.”

  4. George, your rain gauge story comes to mind; here is a thing that could be made of a different material, a clear silicone, or something that would stretch, not break, when frozen, or have a replaceable freezeout plug; customers would want it because of how long it would last, but the longer the product lasts, the fewer future customers you would have. A guy at the Toyota dealership told me once about the high durability of their Echo: “If all Toyotas were that good they’d go out of business.” It got me to thinking about how product durability is in direct conflict with product sales and the continued existence of the production company!

  5. Absolutely correct George, if a company is not constantly evolving to meet customer needs it is fossilizing. Although, product integration to current product modeling is also critical. Just rolling out products without a synergy in product integration can be disastrous. Sorry if I went too Al Sharpton on you !!