Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in.
Alan Alda (Source - Brainy Quote)
Windows are interesting things to peep through. What we see depends on which window we look through. Most innovations begin with interesting observations and windows are essential for observing. Tell me which window you look through and i will tell you who you are or at least what you will see.
I begin all my Innovation Workshops with analyzing the opportunity and defining the problem - the very first tool that I introduce is 9 Windows. I first learnt about it from the TRIZ expert Darrell Mann (when i attended his week long TRIZ Workshop).I developed an instant liking for this tool. 9 Windows helps you to capture the entire ecosystem (across sub-system, system and super-system levels). It also captures the evolution with time (past, present and future). In the 9 windows (3 x 3), a whole world of information is depicted. Looking at it, helps us to recognize the innovation opportunities across the 9 windows and leads us to holistic solutions.
I had opportunities to discuss with the TRIZ expert and Ellen Domb through the TRIZ India Forum (http://trizindia.org/) - she explains how to evaluate and solve problems using the powerful TRIZ tool - 9 Windows - http://www.realinnovation.com/content/c070730a.asp :
The technique in TRIZ (The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) called 9 windows, or the system operator, can help cut through the complexity so that the problem that needs to be solved becomes clear.
A 9 windows diagram looks like a tic-tac-toe board – a 3x3 matrix. Start by drawing the simple board and put your problem in the middle square as shown in Table 1.
|Table 1: The Start of a 9 Windows Diagram|
Your Problem Here
Now label the rows and columns of the system operator diagram as shown in Table 2.
|Table 2: Expanding the 9 Windows Diagram|
Your Problem Here
You can find eight new ways to think about your problem by filling in the empty boxes.
Chuck Frey, famous for his Innovation Tools, comments that the Nine windows creativity technique offers a practical framework to consider a range of future opportunities
Excerpt from Chuck Frey
One of the challenges we face in creative problem solving is mentally getting out of our own way. We tend to be so trapped in our unique perspective that it limits our ability to see other possibilities. What's needed is a structured way to look at our challenge or opportunity through different "lenses." The creative problem-solving technique called "Nine Windows," described in the excellent book, The Innovator's Toolkit by David Silverstein, Philip Samuel and Neil de Carlo, does just that, by enabling you to look at innovation opportunities across the dimensions of time (past, present, future) and space (super system, system, sub system). In other words, it gives you a set of tools that you can use to consider your opportunity by breaking it into smaller pieces as well as considering the larger context into which it fits.
Discussing about the past and present was relatively easy. But when it comes to discussing the future, the workshop participants were baffled. People had different views on how a technology or market could evolve in future and the discussions stretched beyond the budgeted time. I started looking for best-practices across the Industry on objectively analyzing the Future. I learnt about Shell's powerful Scenario planning technique from a product designer friend of mine when we were discussing about creating Point of Views (POVs) and Pre Product Visualization (PPV). I found it a very powerful approach for looking at futures.
Shell Scenario Planning
Shell uses scenarios to explore the future. The scenarios are not mechanical forecasts. They recognize that people hold beliefs and make choices that can lead down different paths. They reveal different possible futures that are plausible and challenge people’s assumptions.
Shell Energy Scenarios to 2050
Excerpts: TANIA – There
Are No Ideal Answers.
There is a great deal of inertia in
the modern energy system, given
its vast complexity and scale. The
often lengthy timescales required for
planning and constructing new energy
infrastructure mean that strains within
the system cannot be resolved easily
or quickly, if at all. It will be several
years before major changes become
apparent. But below the surface,
the pieces are already shifting. The
question is, how to recognize and
grapple with these changes.
Scenarios are a tool to help identify
such shifts, and consider the plausible
interactions between different
perspectives and possibilities. They
help people to prepare for, shape,
and even thrive in the reality that
eventually unfolds. This text describes
two alternative scenarios, Scramble
and Blueprints, for the development.
of the energy system over the next
These are both challenging outlooks.
Neither are ideal worlds, yet both
are feasible. They describe an era
of transformation. Everyone knows
that the energy system a century from
now will be very different from that
of today. But how will the transitions
emerge over the next few decades?
These scenarios bring out the impact
of critical differences in the pace and
shape of political, regulatory and
Scramble reflects a focus on national energy security. Immediate pressures drive decision-makers, specially the need to secure energy supply in the near future for themselves and their allies. National government attention naturally falls on the supply-side levers readily to hand, including the negotiation of bilateral agreements and incentives for local resource development. Growth in coal and bio-fuels becomes particularly significant.
Blueprints describes the dynamics behind new coalitions of interests. These do not necessarily reflect uniform objectives, but build on a combination of supply concerns, environmental interests, and associated entrepreneurial opportunities. It is a world where broader fears about life style and economic prospects forge
new alliances that promote action in both developed and developing nations. This leads to the emergence of a critical mass of parallel responses to supply, demand, and climate stresses, and hence the relative promptness of some of those responses.
- Look at the Innovation opportunity space through all the nine windows - across the system levels and across time.
- The TRIZ tool 9 Windows is a great tool to play with during the "Define" phase.
- Shell's Scenarios technique helps us to clearly analyze the multitude directions in which the Future could evolve.