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Creativity Hack: Use TRIZ to Solve Problems and Generate Ideas

Creativity Hack: Use TRIZ to Solve Problems and Generate Ideas
    The toolbox known as TRIZ

    TRIZ — the Russian acronym for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving — is a toolbox of techniques for solving problems and generating ideas. It was created in the 1950s by a Soviet naval patent clerk named Genrich Altschuller.

    Altschuller believed that it was possible for people to learn to become inventors. He studied hundreds of thousands of patents and found that there are only about 1,500 basic problems to be solved. In addition, all of these problems can be solved by applying one or more of 40 universal principles.

    Although TRIZ was originally developed in order to help engineers to solve technical problems and create new products, it can be applied to many different areas, such as education, the law, public policy, your small business, and so on. You can use TRIZ in order to solve problems as varied as the following:

    • How can I increase my income?
    • How can I get more blog subscribers?
    • How can I sell more eBooks?
    • How can I improve this product?
    • How can I provide better service for my clients in order to encourage more word of mouth?
    • How can I generate ideas for blog posts, NaNoWriMo, a photography contest, a college art class, and so on?

    When most people have a problem that they need to solve, they use a random approach in order to generate a solution. That is, they sit down and they try to think hard. Although eventually they’ll come up with a solution by using this method, it usually takes a long time. In addition, the solution they come up with is often not particularly creative. A much better approach is to systematically apply the TRIZ principles and begin generating ideas right away. Once you’ve generated several ideas by using TRIZ, you can evaluate them and choose the best one.

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    This article explains and gives examples of the first three TRIZ principles, which are the following:

    • Segmentation
    • Taking Out
    • Local Quality

    You can find out more about each of these TRIZ principles below.

    First TRIZ Principle – Segmentation

    Segmentation is looking at your problem and fragmenting it. It’s about solving a problem by transitioning it to the micro level, or by dividing it into its smallest pieces. The three techniques that you can use in segmentation are the following:

    • Divide an object, or break it down, into independent parts.
    • Make an object easy to disassemble.
    • Increase the degree of fragmentation or segmentation.

    Here are some examples:

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    • Break down furniture into modular components so that it can be configured based on the customer’s needs. More pieces can be added when the customer can afford them, or when their needs change and they need more storage.
    • Quick disconnect joints in plumbing.
    • Break a large project down into smaller tasks.

    In addition, segmentation is often used in marketing. As an example, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” is a book published in the 1990s which contains inspirational stories and motivational essays. It became a huge success and sold millions of copies. The authors – Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen – asked themselves how they could sell even more books.

    They proceeded to launch an entire “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. Each book in the series applies the same concept as the original book, but each one is directed at different segments of the population and different life circumstances. They’ve already published over 200 titles under the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” umbrella.

    As another example, suppose that you want to start a blog and you’re trying to decide on a niche. You know that the topics that people are most interested in are the following:

    1. Health
    2. Money and Status
    3. Relationships

    Look at each of these topics and ask yourself how it can be segmented. A segment of “Relationships” could be “how to have a strong marriage”. A segment of “how to have a strong marriage” could be “have a strong marriage if you have a blended family”. Continue segmenting until you find a topic that interests you, that has a large enough audience to make it worthwhile, and that isn’t already saturated.

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    Second TRIZ Principle – Taking Out

    The second TRIZ principle is “taking out” or “extraction”. The basic question that you ask yourself with this principle is the following: Is there something that I can take out of this product, service, or situation, in order to increase the good and minimize the bad? There are two basic ideas behind this principle:

    1. Take out or separate an interfering part of a product or service.
    2. Single out the only necessary part (or property) of a product or service.

    Here are four basic examples of this TRIZ principle:

    • Identify how you’re spending your time in your business, pinpoint those activities which are not at the core of your business and which are using up a lot of your time, and consider outsourcing those activities. That is, take those activities out of your business.
    • Air conditioning companies took the noisy compressor out of the air conditioning system so that it could be placed outside of the building, thereby reducing the noise level inside the building.
    • Take out the sound of a barking dog and implement it into a burglar alarm.
    • Franchises are popular because they take out most of the risk and guess work from starting a business. If you open up a McDonald’s you already know that it’s a business model that works, you’re given a marketing plan, you’re given a training manual for your employees, and so on.

    There are a lot of business opportunities for those who can extract the key ideas from complicated concepts and make them easier for others to understand and to apply.

    Third TRIZ Principle – Local Quality

    The principle of local quality is about changing an object’s structure or external environment from a uniform to a non-uniform state. It’s about modifying or enhancing your product so that it matches the environment in which it’s going to be used. For example, fast food establishments will often adapt their menus to meet the needs and wants of customers in different countries.

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    A second example is cell phone skins. With these skins, each person can adapt the look of their cell phone to match their own personal taste. This makes the product more appealing.

    Another example of local quality is related to purifying water in developing nations. The cost of sewage treatment and water treatment plants is out of reach for these countries. Therefore, the solution was not to create an expensive water treatment plant, but to create a small water filter —- called the Life Straw — to be used by each person to filter the water they’re about to drink. A large problem was solved by making it local: it was solved at the level of each individual.

    As a fourth illustration, suppose that you’re a blogger and you write what you consider to be high quality blog posts. You’re convinced that if a high profile blog would link to one of your blog posts it would go viral and you would get your name on the map. Instead of randomly sending out emails to the largest blogs that you can find, think local. That is, identify which blog is most likely to be interested in the topic that you write about. Then, find out which editor from that blog would be most likely to resonate with your writing style and viewpoint. Lastly, target that particular person.

    This last example of local quality is for job hunters. Instead of sending out generic resumes, tailor each resume to each particular company and job description.  In addition, prepare for job interviews by researching the company that you’re interviewing with, so that you can make sure that your answers during the interview are relevant to that company. It’s even better if you can find out who will be interviewing you, and you can find some information about them; for example, where they went to school, if they have any hobbies, articles they’ve published, and so on.

    Conclusion

    The three TRIZ principles explained in this article can help you start generating ideas right away. In addition, there are thirty-seven more TRIZ principles, so there’s a very high likelihood that one of them can help you regardless of what your problem might be. Had you heard of TRIZ before? If so, please share your experience with TRIZ in the comments section below.

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    20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a daily plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    2. Peg a time limit to each task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    Google Calendar is great – I use it. It’s even better if you can sync it to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are.

    Here’s more tips about how to use calendar for better time management: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

    Check out these Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools and pick the ones that fit your needs.

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    5. Know your deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to be early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time box your activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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    9. Have a clock visibly placed before you

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set reminders 15 minutes before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    Find out more here about how reminders help you remember everything.

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track your time spent

    Egg Timer is a simple online countdown timer. You key in the amount of time you want it to track (example: “30 minutes”, “1 hour”) and it’ll count down in the background. When the time is up,the timer will beep. Great way to be aware of your time spent.

    But besides Egg Timer, you can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that fits yourself the best.

    14. Don’t fuss about unimportant details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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    17. Batch similar tasks together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate your time wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off when you need to

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave buffer time in-between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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