ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘TRIZ’

Are You Using This Innovation Technique That is a Favorite of NASA?

Posted by Plish on October 25, 2018

I just saw the movie First Man, about Neil Armstrong and the quest to put a human on the moon. (Good movie 🙂 )

What struck me again while watching the movie is that the main innovation technique NASA uses to put a person on the moon is also one of my favorites.

SEGMENTATION

There are other names for it, but it comes down to this: break down a bigger problem, device, situation, etc. into smaller components that are easier to handle and design solutions for.

NASA uses segmentation extensively in the Apollo program.  The best way to illustrate it is by looking at the Saturn V rocket diagram below.

What’s with the red thingie?

That’s the component that ultimately mattered at the end – it’s the capsule that brought the astronauts back to earth.  The rest of the rocket components ended up on the moon, in orbit,  in the ocean or burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere.  They weren’t necessarily less important, but their jobs were specific to specific phases of the project.

apollo

Why throw it all away?

The physics of getting something into space is relatively straightforward.  Take something  and accelerate it to escape velocity.  The problem is that the the heavier the payloads, the more fuel that’s required, and the more fuel that’s required, the heavier the rocket  becomes.  It’s a nasty catch 22.

So, to solve the problem, you break things into modules.  Launch the rocket, when it gets to a certain speed, you get rid of part of the rocket, and use different fuels to propel what’s left (which now weighs less) even faster, and so on.

What’s the key then to Segmentation?

The key is that each component contains only what is necessary for that stage in the launch, or more generally, for each step in a process. By doing this, the design can be streamlined and optimized.

For example, the lunar module (shown below) had very specific tasks:

  1. Dock with the Command Module
  2. Land on the Moon
  3. Take off from the Moon
  4. Dock with the Command Module
  5. Separate from the Command Module

lunar_module_diagram

Landing gear and pads are only required for landing. Descent engine is for landing.  Ladder is for getting onto the surface of the moon.

Once business was complete on the moon, the upper half of the module left the lower half on the moon and was now smaller and lighter.  Its job was now to rendezvous with the Command Module, dock, and transfer the astronauts back into the Command vehicle.

It then was jettisoned.  None of the Lunar Module was brought back to earth – well except for the astronauts inside.  (There’s an interesting non-obvious segmentation going on here  – even the crew was segmented!  Only two astronauts went to the moon and back.  The third astronaut stayed in the command module.  Sending all three to the moon could’ve been done, but the segmentation solution was safer, more elegant and more efficient)

It’s about optimization

Next time you’re confronted with a problem, try Segmentation.  Break down the problem into stages and see if each can be solved with specialized solutions – all inter-related, but standalone in their ability to achieve a goal.

There’s a tendency to design products so that they solve all the possible problems a user might have.  What happens then is that the product can get unwieldy, lose its elegance and often its appeal.

Keep it elegant by  using Segmentation!

This coincidentally opens the door to modularity.  You can then sell modules that do entirely different, or complimentary tasks.  Why sell a frying pan with a lid that’s permanently attached with hinge?  Sure you may find it useful but the lid is only used under certain circumstances.  The rest of the time it’ll be clunky and difficult to manage.  Keep it separate.

Segmentation has always been a favorite innovation approach of mine.  Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree!

Advertisements

Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thinking of the Ideal will Design the Beautiful (Happy Birthday, “Bucky”!)

Posted by Plish on July 12, 2014

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution isn’t beautiful, I know it is wrong.
— Richard Buckminster Fuller

 

Today is the birthday of Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller.  For those of you who don’t know him, he was an amazing architect, systems thinker, writer,  inventor, designer, and futurist.  In short he was a thinker and doer.  He considered himself, “an experiment to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”

For Fuller, beauty wasn’t just something nice to look at.  It was something to strive for when designing things, services and ourselves.

To many, Fuller was perhaps too utopian in his thinking.  What they fail to realize is that this ‘utopian’ tendency was fundamental to his design capabilities.  His goal was not to make something that was ‘good enough.’  His goal was to contribute to designing a world in which 100% of the human population could reach its highest potential with 0% negative impact on the environment and larger systems in which humans are integrally intertwined.

This concept of “ideality” is an important concept to remember and one of my favorite ways to generate innovative ideas.  (Ideality is essentially the ratio of all the positive benefits of something divided by the sum of  all the negatives. ) A more practical way to think of ideality is to think of it as a machine that does everything you need it to do but without any negative consequences.  For example, a bicycle that moves me from Point A to Point B without pedaling is an ‘ideal’ bicycle.  From a personal energy standpoint, a motorcycle is an ideal bicycle.  However, in order to be truly ideal, there should be no negative impacts at all levels of the system.  While a motorcycle is ideal with regards to conserving personal energy, it’s not ideal with regards to impacting the environment with its exhaust, and when its lifespan is over and it needs to be disposed of.  (Learn more how Ideality is at the root of designing products in the highly recommended book:  Cradle to Cradle .)

Ideality is powerful in that it forces people to think of the ramifications of what they are doing.  It also forces designers (us) to look at contradictions in the problem solving process.  The longer we can hold on to those contradictions and bounce them off of each other with the goal of designing a solution that transcends the contradictions, the better the chances we can come up with solutions that are closer to the ideal solution.  Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, in his book, “The Opposable Mind“, calls it Integrative Thinking.

An often overlooked benefit of designing towards to the ideal is that it forces us to look inside the problem itself for the solution.  (Want to create the ultimate experience of eating chocolate and drinking your favorite cordial but you hate washing the glasses afterward?  Make the drinking vessel out of chocolate!)  It is this quality that makes the Ideal solutions beautiful.  Once you experience it, you just know.

This quest for the ideal was key to Fuller’s thinking, and in this day and age, we shouldn’t be satisfied with half-solutions that cause more problems than they solve.  We need to start embracing the Ideal in politics, society, businesses and in our personal lives.  The future of “Spaceship Earth”, (as Bucky called it), may very well depend on it.

*******

If you’d like to learn more about Buckminster Fuller’s thinking, below are some resources:

Design Science – A Framework for Change – A fascinating and insightful presentation on Fuller’s Design Process thinking.

Everything I Know: 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller’s Visionary Lectures Free Online (1975) – There’s a link to the transcripts if you’d rather read.

Buckminster Fuller Gives a Lecture About Semantics at San Quentin State Prison (1959) (At one point he told the inmates: There are no throw-away resources,and no throw-away people.” )

Critical Path – Perhaps the best and most accessible summary of his thought.

The Buckminster Fuller Institute – A great resource on everything Bucky!

Posted in Books, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Evolution, Human Rights, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Social Innovation, Society, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology, The Future, The Human Person, TRIZ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Acclaimed Author and Home Chef, Anupy Singla, on Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 15, 2014

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I had the great pleasure of chatting with Anupy Singla.  While her website says she is a ‘journalist turned foodie turned author,’ she could not have written the books she had if she wasn’t a chef.  Anupy’s book, “The Indian Slow Cooker” is also part of the distinguished “Beyond Bollywood, Indian Americans Shape the Nation” at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History! (You can read an interview with the curator here.)

Her response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

 

Anupy highlights a facet of innovation that’s one of my favorites.  The process is simple.  Take a product that is useful in one context and use it in  similar context where the product is unknown.  This principle is basically what underlies the creative problem solving process called, TRIZ.  She has applied it and combined multiple technologies to create an improved, stackable and patented, Spice Tiffin with spice levelers built into each bowl.

What are your thoughts on Anupy Singla’s view of innovation?

Posted in Books, creativity, Creativity Videos, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Interviews, problem solving, TRIZ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Poor Technology Designs Keep Getting in the Way? Think IDEALLY!

Posted by Plish on January 31, 2009

Is Poor Technology Getting In Our Way?

Is Poor Technology Getting In Our Way?

“Technology’s single most important obligation is to get out of the way.” –David Gelernter, Machine Beauty: Elegance And The Heart Of Technology

How often do we find ourselves getting frustrated with computers hanging up on us, forcing us to “save” at every turn because we might lose everything if we don’t? (As a matter of fact, at this moment I’m typing this blog with one web browser window ‘stuck’ open, eating CPU so my words don’t all show up when typed immediately, but I can’t close it because I might lose this blog!)

How often do we find ourselves sitting at some event only to have a Britney Spears ringtone pierce the silence, and then find out it’s our phone that we forgot to turn off? (and no, I don’t have any Britney ring tones!)

Technology doesn’t seem to get out of the way, it gets in the way, it makes us its servant-and why?

POOR DESIGN!

And this means, among other things:

POOR USE OF CREATIVITY. 

Think about truly elegant, creative and innovative designs, how they often elicit the term “ideal” when describing them.  It seems that they only bring advantages and no disadvantages-they allow us to live life without interruption-they get out of the way!

People forget about ideal products because it seems technology has duped us into an, “it’s good enough” syndrome; we forget and often don’t even try to develop better methods, better processes, better technological products because some aspect of our lives is served well enough. 

That shouldn’t be good enough!

If you want great, creative solutions, strive for ideality-strive for the solution that’s ideal-literally.

If you want an idea of one way to solve a problem using ideality as your goal, check out this TRIZ technique based page that gives some great examples.

What do you think? Is most technology poorly designed so it gets in our way too often? Are the systems supported by technology poorly designed so that they encumber instead of liberate?

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, TRIZ | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: