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May 2007

Greetings and Happy May!

Are you looking for new tools to help your creativity bloom and blossom the way the trees and flowers are -- finally -- doing here in New England? This issue describes two valuable resources to help you do just that and in the process, be a more effective, productive and creative leader. I am also including exciting news about a book that is in the works and a request for your help with the research!

in this issue
  • Reinventing Your Life at Mid-Life -- Research Opportunity
  • TRIZ -- Theory of Inventive Problem Solving
  • More about Mental Models
  • Additional Tools and Techniques

  • TRIZ -- Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

    Have you heard the buzz about TRIZ, the Russian creative problem solving technique?

    TRIZ (pronounced "trees") is a set of tools and techniques that provide a different, more systematic, approach to solving problems. Through its knowledge base of inventive solutions, the discipline of TRIZ helps you examine problems, reformulate them, and then develop novel solutions.

    Where did TRIZ come from?

    Although relatively new to the United States, TRIZ is based on decades of patent study, begun in 1946, by Russian researcher G.S. Altshuller. Throughout this investigation, Altshuller was convinced that creative problem-solving techniques that relied solely on brainstorming were erratic, unpredictable, and incomplete. Instead he believed that there were fundamental principles, accessible to anyone, that could guide inventive problem solving.

    Examples of some of these universal principles, derived from the study of over 2 million patents, include:

    * Segmentation, where an object is divided into independent parts, such as a railroad train and cars, resort timesharing arrangements, or sectional sofas.

    * Consolidation where objects are combined into one part, such as a radio, CD player, and tape recorder into a "boom box."

    Altshuller's research led to the development of TRIZ (the acronym for the Russian "theory of inventive problem solving.") As it has been further developed, TRIZ really involves a switch in thinking about problem solving as well as a set of tools and techniques to add to the creativity of the solution.

    Altshuller's work has been continued and refined in over 100 research centers worldwide, in countries like Germany, Israel, Sweden, Belarus, Russia and the United States. Variations on TRIZ are now numerous and include different interpretations by students of Altshuller and their followers. One popular variation, described in the Harvard Business Review article "Finding your Innovation Sweet Spot" (March, 2003), is "SIT," or Systematic Inventive Thinking. SIT facilitators refer to themselves as the "grandchild of TRIZ" because of the way they have simplified and streamlined TRIZ.

    Given the many variations on TRIZ, there is a wide variety of consultants, trainers, publications, conferences, and other resources available to help you explore its many facets. I encourage you to do so, as another set of tools in your creativity toolbox!

    More about Mental Models

    Mental Models continue to fascinate me -- especially because of the roles they play in leadership, conflict management, strategic planning, even career choices. Because they can cause serious distortions and misunderstandings and keep us from being our creative best, they need to be frequently tested and often replaced.

    A recent article published to my website provides valuable tools to help switch mental models and enjoy the full benefit of a broader, more inclusive and creative perspective.

    Additional Tools and Techniques

    There are a lot more tools and techniques to help you be your creative best on my website.

    Reinventing Your Life at Mid-Life -- Research Opportunity

    Have you dramatically changed the course of your life after age 50? Were you laid off or did you take early retirement and use this opportunity to re-evaluate your life and then decide to strike out into new territory or even to re-invent your life? Or perhaps you've re-ignited a previous passion and are now off pursuing it, not knowing where it might lead?

    If so, my colleague Judy DeBrandt and I would love to hear from you. We are in the process of gathering research for a new book, tentatively titled "Reinventing Your Life at Mid-Life." The book will focus on providing tools, processes, and techniques to help individuals first to figure out what to do next after turning 50 and then to manage the transition.

    If you are interested in participating in our research or know someone who might be interested, please email either Judy (judy@breakthroughcreativity.com) or Lynne (lynne@breakthroughcreativity.com).

    Or, if you prefer, you can take our online survey (see below). Your responses, which will be guaranteed anonymity since we will protect identities with pseudonyms, will be used to help individuals - at age 50 and over - maneuver through this challenging time, rekindle their creative spirit, redefine their mental models, and re-discover purpose and direction. Thanks!

    If you are interested in keeping informed about this research, please sign up for this newsletter and click on the category: "Reinventing Your Life at Mid-Life."

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    Copyright (c) Lynne C. Levesque. All rights in all media reserved.