Dancing Around Innovation

Struggling with idea creation? Blame it on the BOSSA NOVA

by Kim Niles

Being innovative, or using applied creativity, is difficult when you fail to recognize it as a process and approach innovation opportunities as an artisan. Some of us eventually discover we have a knack for it, but regardless, developing creative ideas is easier said than done—until now.

The ASQ innovation process model starts with finding the opportunity, connecting it to a solution, making it user friendly and getting it to market.1 Obviously, any part of this process can be challenging. But brainstorming new ideas is the most difficult part unless you relax and think of Brazilian jazz-style music and dance by using the acronym BOSSA NOVA:

Brain. Try to use both sides of it—left for logic and right for artistic. Start by asking questions regarding your need. They should be oriented around an action (for example, delegate, learn or buy) and a trigger (for example, who, what or where). Then develop pictures of goals and interim steps toward that result.

Others should be consulted. Form a team and brainstorm. Everyone thinks differently and has different moods, experiences and education from which to draw.

Search and compare with such benchmarking sources as databases, industry standards, patents and surveys. As innovation guru Ellen Domb said, "Somebody somewhere has already solved your problem, perhaps in a different industry, but the root mechanism has been solved. You just have to find it."

Scenarios can be generated using cause-and-effect tools. In fact, there are about 250 tools available. It may also be helpful to use TRIZ—a problem-solving method developed in Russia after finding patterns in patents. TRIZ-oriented categories include trends, resources, perspective and defining ideality.2,3 Ideality relates to your customers’ true needs, which unfortunately can mean not needing your product.

Automate ideas using the TRIZ contradiction matrix of standard conflict solutions. Every need for innovation stems from physical conflicts (such as needing to be in two places at once) or technical conflicts (such as making a product stronger and also lighter, or simpler to use and also more accurate).4

You can resolve physical conflicts using separation principles—such as time, space, scale and condition—and technical conflicts using a contradiction matrix.5 Using a matrix works for any type of process or problem by suggesting solutions. You might enter completely inaccurate information or have a very unusual conflict and still be inspired as long as you remain open minded to the solutions generated.

NOVA. In the astronomy world, a nova is an exploding star. And it’s an apt metaphor for the moment when true innovation occurs.

References and note

  1. ASQ Quality Management Division, "Innovation: a Driver for Value Creation Presentation," www.asq-qm.org/resourcesmodule/view/id/678/src/@random4c45ae222ee1c.
  2. Kalevi Rantanen and Ellen Domb, Simplified TRIZ, St. Lucie Press, 2002.
  3. David Silverstein, Philip Samuel and Neil DeCarlo, The Innovator’s Toolkit, John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
  4. Rajesh Jugulum and Philip Samuel, Design for Lean Six Sigma, John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
  5. A sample TRIZ matrix can be found at www.triz40.com.

Kim Niles is a validation manager at INOVA Diagnostics in San Diego and a quality program adjunct instructor at San Diego State University, the University of California in San Diego and California State University in Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). He has a master’s degree in quality science from CSUDH. Niles is an ASQ fellow, as well as an ASQ-certified quality engineer and Six Sigma Black Belt.

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