12 February 2010

Simplicity Friday

I'm having so much fun with Weird Wednesday, I thought I'd start a new string called Simplicity Friday.

I'm also aiming to provide you, dear readers, with concretely useful take-aways. So for the next several Fridays, I'll offer some tools you can use to simplify your systems, organizations and processes (if you're so inclined).

Let's start with TRIZ, aka the theory of inventive problem solving. The name is from a Russian acronym (Теория решения изобретательских задач (Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch), and it was created by Genrich Altshuller.

Altshuller's main insight is to state technical problems in the form of a contradiction. For example, let's say you want your vehicle to go faster. A larger engine would make it go faster. But a larger engine would also be heavier, which makes it go slower. So the larger engine simultaneously increases and decreases the vehicle's speed - thus the contradiction.

Having established your contradiction, you can then consult a matrix of 40 TRIZ principles, which offers suggestions, principles and tools for resolving the contradiction. It's powerful (and simple) stuff!

One of the tools or practices that TRIZ identifies is "trimming," which I wrote about in my Simplicity Cycle book. It basically involves arbitrarily removing one part from the design, then seeing if you can make the system perform its function without that part. You'd be surprised how often that's possible.

OK, there's your simplicity tip for the day. Tune in next week for more!

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