Friday, May 9, 2008

Limits of a Professionalism.

Several years ago I was coaching group of professionals who were working on a very important and complicated technical problem. We were working for several months to reveal and eliminate system of contradictions. Step by step we eliminated professional stereotypes of participants and finally developed a set of interesting innovative ideas.
Members of the temporary group were happy with the results and wanted to apply computer simulation to make first step from a conceptual solution to an implemented solution. According their corporate rules they had to ask for permission from their boss to spend several days and to use a powerful computer. Reaction of the boss confused them a lot. He refused the proposed solution and prohibited to make simulation. It seems totally non-logical. To spend so much time to obtain a solution and refuse to spend a few days with computer simulation?

What is behind this strange behavior of Professionals and their Managers?

To answer this question we should consider what does it mean professionals?
How do they appear in our world?

A commonly shared answer to this question is simple and looks obvious. Professionals are knowledgeable and skillful people we usually invite to help us achieve certain goals or perform a certain project.

How do those people obtain their professional Knowledge and Skills?
The answer is clear as well: during their professional education and life experience.

Now is most crucial point of our investigation.
The key question: How does this professional knowledge appear in a professional educational system?

The answer is also clear: previous generations of professionals invent new ideas and implement them for practical needs. Then these ideas were transformed to professional typical solutions. New generations of professionals learn those typical solutions as a ready to use instruments for solving their professional problems.

The core words are – professional Typical solutions.

The second crucial issue – these typical solutions were invented somewhere in the past. Then these innovative ideas were transformed for professional needs in the following way: IF we have a certain problem: THEN we have to use the typical solution: .
Often professionals do not even realize why these typical solutions work and what is underlying knowledge for the specific typical solution is.

This entire works perfectly until professionals encounter a non typical problem. It means that the problem could not be solved by applying a well known typical solution. Innovative ideas are necessary.

“…The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them... “
These words are attributed to Albert Einstein…

A research which was done by Altshuller and Igor Vertkin absolutely conform this conclusion. They analyzed about 1000 biographies of great innovators who changed the world.

A contemporary level of thinking is a level of thinking of the contemporary professionals in the specific fields. Their instruments and criteria of evaluation serve to generate typical solutions and compare different options of these solutions. Such instruments and criteria are not dedicated to evaluate innovative unusual ideas. It is well known among Classical TRIZ Professionals that if professionals say “Yes this is possible” then it is possible. However if professional say “No” we should be triple careful, especially if we were using support of professionals in Classical TRIZ and OTSM.

It is due to the fact that we could miss new innovative ideas and solutions that eventually will became typical professional solutions. But until this idea will be accepted and will become a typical solution we could have a temporary business monopoly.
In other world we could miss profitable innovation. And this is not a hypothesis. More than 60 years of TRIZ evolution prove this point many times in different country for various domains of human activities.

Professionalism has its own limits. These limits are defined by a typical solutions and theories that underlie these professional typical solutions. All of them produce professional stereotypes which block innovative thinking and acceptance of new ideas. A highly innovative solution often appears beyond the professional stereotypes. A telephone was refused by professionals of the telegraph company. The same reaction followed the radio broadcasting at its beginning. Before the Second World War IBM produced mechanical calculators and their professionals refused ideas of an electronic computer. Professionals who were producing mainframes refused the ideas of a personal computer. You can find lot of facts like these in the history of Mankind.

That is why when Professionals say – “No” we should be triple careful, especially if new ideas were obtained with the help of Professionals in Classical TRIZ and OTSM. OTSM-TRIZ professionals have a meta-knowledge and skills to develop innovative solutions across professionals’ stereotypes.

This meta-knowledge could be used much more efficiently if it would be a part of a corporate culture and managers would find a way how to arrange cooperation between their own professionals and professionals in Classical TRIZ and OTSM. This will lead eventually to a Company of Sustainable Innovation. Neither Classical TRIZ nor OTSM can replace specific professional knowledge, but both of them are capable of drastically increasing the use of the professional knowledge as well as of management and strategic planning.


Anonymous said...

I find myself in total agreement with your conclusion!
I know very well the frustration of having the good solution, but a radically new one, that nearly noone understand!

I think that here begin the skills of the real genius, the one who have the determination and persuasion capability to promote his idea.

Like Marconi with the radio, and many others!
And here begin also the problems when you work in an ambient that is not so open to the real innovative solutions..

I cannot enter with my nick now.. so I put my signature here.


Nikolai said...

Yes, I quite agree with you. Corporate culture is necessary to be changed if company would like be sustainably but not randomly innovative...

As Richard Florida Discovered by his research (see his book The Rise of the Creative Class.): Innovation need tolerance to unusual things and ideas... Place that have high tolerance attract innovators and most innovations appear and concentrated in those places.

OTSM-TRIZ could help a lot, especially OTSM Problem Flow Networks (PFN) approach. It is dedicated to manage interdisciplinary complex situations like transformation Company into Company of sustainable innovations. New kind of technologies are requested now – technologies to bring ideas into real world and make it efficient and effective way.

Ellen Domb said...

Some of the most basic TRIZ techniques are useful for corporate change. For example: Do things in reverse (instead of the TRIZ/OTSM professional giving the unwelcome solution, find a way to help the company "discover" the solution.) This has been very effective for me in a wide range of industrial, service, and government organizations. The biggest challenge to doing this well is the ego of the professional!

Thanks for a very nice blog, Nikolai.

Anonymous said...

While I broadly agree with your conclusion, there is one unsustainable aspect of it. The "professional stereotypes" you describe are basically just a generic fear of the unknown - on a low, fundamental level. And Xenofobia (interpreted as fear of the unknown, not just of foreign beings) is practically in our genes - survival evolution. Therefore it is quite futile to try and change the approach MOST people take to problem solving. The best you can hope for is to change a FEW. And to do that, you need to train them. So, while what you are doing now is right, it will stay like this forever... :)

Nikolai said...

Dear Anonymous
Absolutely agree with your words!
My 30 years TRIZ experience show that even you help people to overcome one than right away appear another one.
By the way same happen with TRIZ experts as well... if they did not follow the process of the solution development. This seems to me, the only way to help people to overcome their fear you mention about. But as Ellen wrote in her comment (August 29, 2008) the biggest challenge we (OTSM or TRIZ coaches) faced when help people to “discover” solution during our coaching sessions – the ego of professionals that prevent them from obtaining an innovative solutions. As a result often their more brave and less ego competitors bypass those who has so big ego and refuse novelties that make them scare. Big ego usually used to hid a big genetic fear….