R&D teams face what, at first glance, seems like an impossible challenge. They must invent solutions to the problems their customers, coworkers, and industry face. These innovations should be novel enough that they can be protected and commercialized. However, if you make a new product or system too much of a departure from current widely used solutions, you run the risk that your invention won’t be adopted—or brought to market at all.
Contrary to popular belief, inventions that are both novel and useful are rarely born from a single, random “Aha!” moment. Instead, they’re the hard-won product of a structured approach to R&D, or systematic innovation.
A Systematic Approach to Innovation
Broadly, systematic innovation is ongoing structured ideation and development that uses specific methodologies to arrive at potentially novel solutions.
TRIZ, or The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, is one such methodology. TRIZ methodology operates under the assumption that there is likely an existing solution to your problem. No problem is truly new and no solution is really undiscovered. This systematic innovation process starts with a clear understanding and concise description of the root problem. When this problem is generalized, it can be compared to similar problems with existing solutions, which may be considered potential solutions to the problem at hand.
According to researchers, TRIZ methodology aims to enable three broad goals: 1) To structure an inventive process 2) To generate a solution with no direct harmful functions or detriment to users or innovation outcomes. 3) To center innovation on eliminating side or downstream effects of various solutions (e.g. does not ‘reduce emissions’ by shifting them elsewhere within a manufacturing process).
Systematic Inventive Thinking
The Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) methodology is another structured method for ideation. Within this process, programmatic manipulations are made to the components or attributes of a product or system. SIT, while based on TRIZ methodology, attempts to innovate with only what exists in a product’s “closed world,” including the product itself and its environment. This methodology uses specific rules for modifying a product’s features that encourage a systematic approach to innovation:
- Task Unification
- Attribute Dependency Change
By creating an environment where your organization’s innovators must build on previous innovations with existing technology attributes and materials, they are more likely to solve problems in a way that appeals to current customers and is more easily brought to market.
Based on the Theory of Constraints, the SIT mode of innovation helps more precisely innovate on the dimensions that yield ideas that progress through the innovation lifecycle. SIT deploys the following management theory techniques to achieve innovation by systematically identifying constraints and resolving challenges. These are called “focusing steps” and can be implemented to set up productive ideation.
- Identify constraints.
- Target the constraint.
- Ideate and manipulate within the constraint.
- Test possibilities to resolve the constraint.
- Repeat the process and test new problem-solving methods.
This method elevates key technological constraints to enable problem-solving that can be more efficiently and systematically moved beyond idea validation and idea evaluation while incorporating previous innovation successes into ongoing results.
Lean Six Sigma
Open-ended creativity may more readily inspire new ideas but these can often require additional time, new materials, and idea evaluation that adds more variables to the innovation lifecycle, including potential infringement or competitive overlap. This reduction in variables is called the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) method for improved collaboration and streamlined workflows. LSS can be used on its own or in combination with other methods like SIT to inspire innovation. For manufacturing and technology firms, Lean Six Sigma is often about avoiding waste through maximum time, materials, and production efficiencies to avoid production costs and complications down the road. Constrained systematic innovation initiatives, with perspectives like Lean Six Sigma, allow for more predictability as an invention is commercialized.
Systematic Innovation with IQ Ideas Plus
IP.com’s IQ Ideas Plus™ uses built-in Cause and Effect Analysis or System Improvement Analysis systems to help engineers and inventors define their problems and search prior art to spark novel solutions. Then, the innovation workflow helps R&D and IP teams collaborate to bring new technologies to market, faster.
Not only does systematic evaluation with tools like IQ Ideas Plus simplify and automate workflows by assessing idea novelty and description quality with AI, but it also presents an opportunity to add some of the aforementioned systematic problem-solving methods to real-life use cases. Within the innovation lifecycle, ideation and validation can involve multiple formulations of a problem, leading to more than one iteration of an idea.
IQ Ideas Plus allows inventors to apply systemic innovation modes like TRIZ, not only creating multiple versions of an idea within the software but formulating the basic problem with alternate constraints and a structured testing process. Inventors, IP teams, and management can then collaborate in real time to assess the viability and potential of idea iterations by better understanding their genesis.