Archive for the 'Why Technology Innovation?' Category

The power of targeted thinking and effective use of resources

I’ve recently been exposed to some new tools in the area of TRIZ analysis. One specific topic which I will discuss further in future posts concerns the TONGS (or Reality-Goal) model for problem definition. This really is a deceptively strong way of approaching a problem situation and getting to the core of the real conflict. The other topic I’ve been working with recently is new ways to expand problem solving¬†insights around use of system resources. Based on previous work done by a number of TRIZ masters, I’ve developed my own tool for systematically examining system resources and identifying particularly powerful resources, which already exist within a problem situation¬†to solve the problem. ¬†Using this tool on a few problem situations, I’ve been struck by the way the resources “light up” as their hidden functional, energy field, form, parameter and time resources become clear. Just one quick example of the power of resources to solve a problem without compromise: several years ago a robotic systems manufacturer was struggling to lubricate a carriage which was sliding on a boom in a clean room environment. The problem was that no oil could be used in a clean room situation, so how to lubricate the carriage? The answer, derived after many months of research, was to cool the boom locally so that just enough atmospheric water vapour condensed onto the boom in the best places to lubricate the carriage. This solution gives a small insight into the sort of resources which are often hidden in our problem situations and which can be used advantageously to solve problems.

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Time for principles in Open Innovation?

Having been working in the field of Open Innovation for some time and having come across a number of Open Innovation “victims”, I’ve been reflecting on the need for some statement of principles around Open Innovation. To this end, I have prepared some¬†ground rules¬†for Open Innovation and in upcoming posts I will set out to share these. I’m doing this to provoke some debate or reaction and also to check my thinking. Watch this space for more.


Technology Innovation at Philips Applied Technologies

Last week I visited Philips Applied Technologies in Eindhoven and I was given the inside line on a number of impressive new technology applications.¬†Philips Applied Technologies¬†are¬†well experienced in applying and integrating a wide range of technologies including software, electronics, robotics, precision motion and sensors. They act as a consultancy wing of Philips, helping to broaden the use of Philips technologies and applications for a very broad range of clients in areas as diverse as retail, healthcare, energy and semiconductor manufacture. While there, I had a look around “homelab”, a demonstrator for the home of the future, I saw a number of neat technology applications and I experienced the Philips 3D TV in 42″ LCD format. Watching the new TV, without any special glasses, is a seriously convincing visual and sensory treat – I watched a very realistic 3D film sequence from Journey to the Centre of the Earth and witnessed Pinnochio’s nose grow out of the screen. It works by having an extra lenticular layer in the screen which is designed to interact with the displayed image and special¬†processing chips to send the correct images in real time to your right and left eyes to create the 3D effect. It’s a bit like a super whizzy version of the lenticular display signs you sometimes see which give a moving image or a 3D image as you move your head. To view the screen, you need to position your head so you can’t see any ghosting and then enjoy. Apart from this the only limitation seems to be that the resolution of 2D images suffers so the display is effectively limited to 3D. Initial applications are in digital signage retailing at up to $13,000 for the 42″ version. I think it’s called WOWvx.

Heres a quick video about Philips 3D TV to give you some faint idea of how cool it is.

Other cool things being worked on are lab-on-a-chip devices, already being used to detect high alcohol or drug levels in drivers, a new Optical imaging mammography system, Near Field Comms technology to enable WiFi, low cost noise cancelling headphones, some amazing precise mechatronic systems (for use in future 22nm fab lines) and some clever ways to configure LED lighting systems.

I was really impressed by the capabilities and technologies that Philips Applied Technologies have on offer. I can imagine that when used with strong market and consumer insight, application of the technologies they have on offer could easily result in some true market breakthrough products.

From the Open Innovation perspective, the whole High Tech Campus in Eindhoven has been through something of an opening up process over the last few years and Philips is finding new ways to showcase and connect with customers through initiatives such as “Meet and Match” where technologies are demonstrated and explained and customer needs elaborated.

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Latest experiences with Nine Sigma part 2

September 12th, 2008 | Category: Why Technology Innovation?

Soon after I wrote the last post, I received a response from Nine Sigma and it seems their client is interested on both my latest proposals. The client posed a number of penetrating and stimulating questions and I’ve fired off my responses. Hopefully I should hear more in the next few days. I wait with anticipation!

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Tesla sells it’s batteries to Mercedes

July 06th, 2008 | Category: Why Technology Innovation?

I picked up on TechCrunch that Tesla have just signed a deal to supply Mercedes Benz with their Litium Ion batteries. MB are likely to make electric versions of the A and B class vehicles as soon as 2010 along with an electric version of the Smart. If this deal is anything to go by, it seems that Tesla’s technology is going to be in demand. I’ve just been on a poll on TechCrunch which is currently showing that 78% of voters think Tesla will have a bigger business in 5 years time selling it’s batteries than making and selling it’s own cars. A case of a real “sweet spot” technology if I’m not mistaken.

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Breakthrough products which came from TRIZ

I am often asked to cite examples of where TRIZ has helped to identify Market Breakthrough Products. Obviously, even when TRIZ is used, it often only plays a small but critical part in the total implementation of the product. So with that caveat, here are a few examples where I’ve heard that TRIZ played a critical part in identifying the¬†final concept:

P&G White Strips

This is a revolutionary tooth whitening product. The non-dissolving strip format holds a whitening gel in close contact with the teeth throughout the recommended whitening time of 30 minutes. This one has been a major success for P&G


P&G Swiffer

This one is another big hit for P&G. This time it’s a floor cleaning product. The way it works is that as¬†you sweep it across the floor, an electrostatic charge develops on the cloth, attracting dirt to the cloth. The cloth is designed to retain the dirt until it removed and disposed of at the end of the cleaning. The basic principle has now spawned a whole host of variants


Sanyo detergent-free washing machine

This washing machine makes use of an ultrasonic field to remove dirt on clothing and an electrolytic action to create a short lived antibacterial and antifungal effect. This product has been very successful in Japan but has yet to transition into the west. With the increasing emphasis on the environment, there are signs that this or something similar will make inroads into the western market too, Look out Tide!


One factor which unites these products, apart from the use of TRIZ, is the profound nature of their impact in their respective markets. True Market Breakthrough.


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Future topics for this blog

I thought it would be interesting to get some feedback on subjects for future blog posts so I asked a question on Linkedin, as you do. So far, the relevant points I’ve got are:

From Siamack Salari – “Understanding the difference between innovation and evolution. Also, unarticulated needs – where do you even begin to disentangle those from everyday life behaviour?” I’ll need to get some clarification on the innovation vs evolution point, but the second point about unarticulated needs is crystal clear and really relevant to targeted technology innovation. Expect some stuff on this.

From Reut Schwartz-Hebron: “Innovation is not just about having a great idea– it’s about implementation and buy in. I think one of the topics technology innovators need are around:
– motivating people to adopt change
– how learning is a teacher’s job (in other words what change facilitators can do to increase learning)”

I think the subject of innovation and change are very closely linked together. Often market breakthrough product implementation first of all requires a mindset shift within the organisation before the end product can be successful. More on this in later posts.

From Brian Cambell: “Why doesn’t TRIZ sell? Why does UK plc pay lip service to innovation? Why do innovation consultants ignore TRIZ?” All good questions, I reckon there¬†should be¬†some good posting to come on this lot. I’ve already had some good debate on the first TRIZ point¬†in comments on my previous post on TRIZ certification.

Finally, from Ellen Domb: “Why “Technology Innovation?” I see lots of situations where it is innovation in marketing or packaging or business processes (be innovative about who the customer could be, rather than the technology of the product.) Technology innovation is a very small % of successful innovation, but it gets a lot of attention already.”

I agree with some of this, in that innovations in marketing, business process or packaging design on their own can¬†deliver significant market impact.¬†There is a place for this type of innovation – for example in the UK the P&G brand Ariel¬†was positioned as an innovative 30 degree Centigrade washing powder even though the product remained unchanged. Suddenly it was very good for saving¬†Polar Bears with nothing more than a new marketing message and packaging design. ¬†In P&G speak, I think this is known as Commercial Innovation. However, while there is a place for this¬†type of innovation, this blog is not that place! This blog is about creating market breakthrough products through targeted technology innovation. What do I mean by targeted? Building on insightful business strategy, combinations of new business models and deep market understanding to scope and direct a systematic process to eliminate the shortfall in today’s technology. This final bit can be done pretty well through combinations of advanced TRIZ thinking, Open Innovation and good old fashioned networking, but there is room for improvement and this is where this blog comes in. This blog is about learning how to target and deliver breakthrough innovation better, with more repeatability and greater vision. In my view this is the sort of innovation which doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

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James Dyson is trying to break his products – anger issues?

Having a better day? 

I saw this on Techcrunch and I thought you might enjoy it. It seems that James Dyson is keen to emphasise the robustness of his latest vacuum¬†cleaners. In my book, this has to be a good thing – my current¬†Dyson vacuum cleaner has continued to self-dissassemble (if that’s a verb) over the last couple of years but I’m just too tight to go out and buy a new one, so I’ve jury rigged it. Anyway, on the video¬†you can see that James clearly has some frustrations to work off as he roundly abuses one of his products. My hypothesis is that he may have been having a bad day. In terms of his robustness strategy, he is on the right track when he mentions rigorous testing, which is a good first step but he doesn’t mention any of the other good stuff you can and should do to get a fully robust product and not compromise time to market. I know it can be a bit dull but FMEA is still a very powerful tool and TRIZ can also help to identify functional areas of a product which can go wrong. In addition I use a proprietary Critical Parameter tool to investigate and assure robustness of new technologies. It really works! More on this another time.


Also there is a link to a video on his new hand dryer which uses a small brushless motor running at 100,000RPM to blow air at 400MPH in a thin blade at your hands. very whooshy! No heater too, which is good for energy consumption. There is a problem, however, for me as a user of the Airblade. Although it was good at drying my hands quickly, am I alone when I say there is a really worrying thing about putting¬†your hands¬†completely into something with a name containing the word “blade”? Call me a soft if you like but it gave me the shivers.

I do admire a couple of things about James Dyson though:

1. he is not afraid of making mistakes

2. he targets technology to solve user problems, just like I’ve been saying¬†in my blog!ÔŅĹ

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Barack Obama’s Linkedin question

June 25th, 2008 | Category: Why Technology Innovation?

Well, I’ve just been looking through questions on linkedin and I saw that there was an interesting one there which had been answered by a couple of my network contacts – “What ideas do you have to keep America competitive is the years ahead?”. I went to the Q&A section and saw that the question already had 2561 answers, which is rather more than my questions get on Linkedin (by a factor of 200!). Turns out Barack Obama is asking. ¬†Here is a selection of suggestions:

Sort out 1. Education (somehow), 2. Industrial Strategy, where there seems to be a familiar (from a UK viewpoint) disconnect between R&D and manufacturing in the US and 3. Infrastructure, which seems to be in a poor state.

Not being dependent on other countries resources (!)

Low taxes, minimal government

Invest in renewable energy

Invest in new technology and bring in talent

Empower individuals and businesses to be innovative and to be willing to take risks by implementing new ideas, without oveercontrolling them

Encourage innovation, keep jobs in the US, encourage an even playing field and keep the money made in US banks.

Use the military to keep drugs out of the US and invade countries which produce them. raise tax on fuel and teach Spanish as well as English (!!!)

I lost interest a bit here to be honest. Suffice to say there is a lot more stuff to read on the Linkedin Q&A. I reckon it is a good thing that Obama is asking questions on linkedin, although the test will be how well he responds I guess. Also good, from the POV of this blog that there seems to be a major theme around innovation in various guises. In fact, innovation must be at the core of any transformation in the US or anywhere else for that matter.


Guess what the biggest travel innovation of the last 10 years is?

June 23rd, 2008 | Category: Why Technology Innovation?

Well, with the whole mobile telephony and internet revolutions taking place over the last 10 years, surely the biggest innovation in¬†the travel¬†market must¬†have something to do with these. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Actually the top ranked travel innovation of the last 10 years turns out to be….fanfare….the humble roller¬†bag with retractable handle, according to a recent Budget Travel survey. Just goes to show that¬†applying a technology (even a well known technology – in this case the wheel) in a way which really delivers for the user can make a bigger impact than bringing in a completely new technology.

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