Now, as in the past, companies have to think in terms of progress and adopt a dynamic stance by proposing things that are new. In any industrial field, knowledge appears increasingly linear, thereby standardizing people’s ability to offer something new.
What really led to this situation? Probably globalisation, the anglicising of the world, boosted by the Internet and free access to global scientific and technical information. Or maybe just tremendous progress in information sciences and the development of countries that used to be discreet on the international industrial scene. When I wrote my thesis, it took days of research to find an article by a Chinese scientist, the means to access data bases on floppy disks that were often not up-to-date, and weeks to receive the precious document by mail. Now, free data bases give you instant access to millions of articles on line.
This state of affairs creates an enormous challenge: considering that continuous improvement procedures and the quest for excellence are in place, that they have produced their effects for a large number of competing industrial players, and that many have become « Pareto-optimal », what can be done to move forward and stand out? Some may have heard of « Blue Ocean Strategy ». Others may launch headlong into « Open Innovation », or scramble around for creative ideas among their staff by organising in-house « idea competitions » with rewards. In a nutshell, feverish activity to introduce such initiatives has a single aim: produce ideas to feed the innovation pipeline.
But will this crazy quest for the greatest possible number not push us towards « too many ideas kill the idea »? When an in-house competition reaps 500 ideas and only three are rewarded, does one not create frustration among the authors of the other 497? Not to mention the R&D expenditure that will simply discard the ideas that do not work. When all is said and done, we all have to produce ideas, but in a reasonably robust, regular, efficient way (ratio between the number of incoming ideas and those that will lead to innovations). There has to be a strategy, tools, methods and people well equipped to cope with the challenge of efficient creative thinking. Why is creative thinking in companies always linked to the image of creative sessions and brainstorming (or one of its derivatives)? Probably because there have been few real additions to creative thinking aids. Or because engineering scientists did not view research in this field as useful. Except possibly for the Russian, Genrich Altshuller, and his « TRIZ Method », which Samsung (and its 30,000 trained employees), Intel, Hyundai, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and many others have noted and tried.
During my talk, I will introduce basic elements for conducting Inventive Design activities in a systematic and robust way.
Professor Denis Cavallucci is Professor at the INSA Graduate School of Science and Technology of Strasbourg (France) and Deputy Director of the Design Engineering Laboratory, France.