Take a look at the outline of problem analysis below. Let the team discuss the problem in depth and make sure that everyone understands all the aspects of the problem.
Ask the team to answer the following questions for better understanding of the problem
a. What is the present situation?
b. Why has the problem arisen?
c. Why should it be solved?
d. Why it is problem for me personally?
e. What thoughts have I already had, or what efforts have I made, to solve the problem?
f. Why are these thoughts/efforts in sufficient or unavoidable?
g. What kind of action can I initiate towards solving this problem? What would be the ‘ideal’ solution?
‘Innovation should be part of everyone’s job description’.
Organize a joint shopping expedition for a limited value.
Visualize success and joy
Eat only freshly cooked meals, not refrigerated leftovers
Every problem can be analyzed by looking at the 6 Ms – Men, Materials, Machines, Methods, Markets, Money. Get the team to study all 6 aspects of the problem past, present and future. If the group is working on new ideas for marketing a product, say, they could review the past and draw up an action plan for the present and future on a three year scale.
The 6M Map provides an elegant format to help understand the underlying structure of your company together. It enables you to dissect all parts of your organizational anatomy. ‘Men’ for instance, involves employees, suppliers, customers and encompasses all stake holders. Markets could also include internal customers. Each of the 6 Ms should be thoroughly studied for problems.
It is important to involve everyone in identifying the real problem. What is a problem for the worker need not seem like a problem for the manager. Mr.Ramesh, H.R. Director of Hyundai, once recounted the case of an absentee worker. He was constantly absent because of backache. Everyone thought he was malingering, until it was found that he was shorter than the other workers, and was straining his back by stretching it. Increasing the height of the platform on which he stood solved the problem and eliminated his absenteeism.
Reflections and actions
Vision and leadership are necessary to inspire a widespread commitment to innovation
Eating together during lunch, especially for a weekly treat. A monthly moonlight, pot luck dinner with families or colleagues can be planned.
Make time for love, compassion, courage, laughter, wonder and peace
Include one green vegetable and one yellow vegetable in every meal.
Study all the problems identified in the problem bank together. And then ensure that each one is turned into a problem statement in the form of a question.
Identifying and formulating the problem is the most difficult part of creative problem solving. Very often we state symptoms of the problems and end up wasting scarce resources chasing the illusionary ‘golden deer of the epics’. Management then becomes so emotionally committed to the wrong path that we can end up moving faster and faster along the wrong road. It is like a man who drills an oil well, in a bad spot. More and more money is spent with no resulting strike. But those involved, refuse to fill up the unproductive well and move on to a new location. They continue throwing good money after bad, because they do not want to admit that a mistake had been made initially.
Problem as first stated: How to improve the brakes supplied to the car maker?
Creative analysis: Why do we want to improve the brakes?
Answer: To stop cars at a shorter distance
Creative Analysis: How else can we stop a car at a shorter distance?
Why do we want to stop the car at a shorter distance?
Answer: To increase safety of occupants of the car.
Restatement of problem: How might we improve safety in a car’s stopping system?
Result: This is much broader than the original challenge and opens a wider door to novel ideas.
At one of my early creativity laboratories for mothers, twenty-two years ago, one of the participants said, ‘My problem is how I get my son to eat eggs for breakfast.’ A rigorous analysis of the problem uncovered the real quandary, ’How do I get my son to eat a nutritious breakfast?’ The restatement of the problem enabled the mother to give the child a variety of foods ranging from cheese and idlis, to cutlets and samosas, instead of forcing the child to eat the hated eggs. Redefining the problem statement is the challenging part of the process, as all of us who have struggled with the task of arriving at a hypothesis know.
Stating and understanding the problem correctly is the key to the Innovation Initiative.
Ask each team member to write all the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving excellence on post-in slips. The problem bank should be a constantly growing database of emerging problems, developed by stakeholders. It should reflect the possibility of improvement and innovation, even in processes that seem to be working perfectly well. Anyone in the organization should be able to work on these problems and help solve them. In a good, dynamic organization, there will be at least a few problems which remain unsolved and may need outside help.
The time to identify problems is when things are going well. The organization then has the resources and energy to find hidden problems.
To create a problem bank you can use a ‘problem tree’. Ask everyone to write all the obstacles that lie in the way of making your company, say, the most successful company in the world. People can write thoughts on post-it slips and look at all the problems of the company together. Circulate this list to everyone and keep adding to the list right through the next 90 days. This problem bank should be exhibited in a place where everybody can see it – like the canteen, coffee machine or on the way to the wash-room.
Dr. Rekha Shetty is Managing Director of Farstar Distribution Network, a unique consultancy company devoted exclusively to innovation and creativity under the brand name Mindspower.She is an author, an entrepreneur and an original thinker. Her long term Innovation Initiative, using 47 thinking tools helps in a steep increase in profits, reduction in costs, while improving customer satisfaction levels and employee participation levels. She is a consultant to ICICI Bank, Ashok Leyland Ltd., Hyundai Motors Ltd., TVS Group, TI Group, Durgapur Steel Plant, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and other blue chip companies.
In her very first assignment in United India Insurance, she developed a nationally acclaimed advertising campaign. During the last seventeen years, she has specialized in the field of Creativity in Management and developed her own management brand, Mindspower. She was one of Asia’s first women District Governors for Rotary International and was awarded Rotary’s highest Award – Service above Self.
Her fourth book “Innovate! 90 Days to Transform your Business” is under print and will be released by Penguin during May 2010.